Despite the anguish of grief, under normal social circumstances most people move through its demands well enough. We are resilient despite our losses and the upheaval they generate. However, things are different now under Covid-19 conditions. Usually friends can gather for ritual activities—including work and social events. But since the public health crisis, we are now more isolated. Reopening is underway, but the virus remains a threat. We may very well see more waves of cases as people have been gathering since Memorial Day as well as protests against police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. The fact remains, grievers have been cut off from the normal visitations, ceremonies, funerals. In other words, losses are being compounded by new losses.
The stress being produced by social isolation and economic insecurity intensifies grief, producing impacts that will likely be with us for years. All grief is complicated, but the grief currently being experienced by many individuals is crossing over into trauma. Trauma distorts and derails the normal recovery and healing process of grief. But with fewer resources, competition for them intensifies and under the increasing stress, we tend to resort to self-defensive/self-protective psychological mechanisms; there can be a turn inward and a growing sense of alienation. Furthermore, for many people healthy dependable attachments prior to the pandemic were a challenge, and it is likely that those attachments are even more “iffy” now, rendering grievers even more alone in their pain and confusion. Clearly, there are now more aspects and dimensions to grief and loss than before Covid-19.
The following article explains more thoroughly some of these and related points. In terms of how we might think about loss during the pandemic, one relevant question worth exploring is, “what are we doing or not doing that either impedes or facilitates our grief?” Grief needs to happen. It begins with acknowledging—naming and claiming our losses—so that we can begin metabolizing and processing them in order to slowly make our winding way towards a new “normal…”