Grieving during COVID-19

Nicole Collaço

Losing a loved one during a global pandemic was surreal. I experienced a constant push and pull between reality and escapism. Every time I wanted to escape and distract myself from my grief, I found that I was stuck with my emotions because COVID-19 imposed so many restrictions regarding going out and doing things/seeing people- so there was no escape.

My mum passed away a couple of days before the first lockdown was announced in the United Kingdom. My family and I had spent 3 months being in our own bubble consumed by being in the hospital 24/7, watching my mum’s health deteriorate. Then a few days after my mum passed away and the lockdown was announced, we had to retreat into another bubble. It was like we had moved from one horrific experience to the next.

The days to come felt strange and sometimes isolating. So many times, I just wanted to go and see my friends, hug someone, get out of the country, have an adventure. I knew that I could speak to people on the phone or virtually, but it’s not the same. Sometimes you just need someone to cry on, wipe your snotty nose on and get it all out face to face. But COVID-19 forced us all into a situation where we just had to be cut off from the rest of the world, our connections. I was aware that many people were struggling with lockdown, emotionally/mentally so it felt like everyone was trying to get through their own difficulties. That realisation made me feel less alone in my own grief- that in some way, although our experiences are all different, on some level, we’re in this together.

It may sound strange, but I had all these experiences/memories of life with my mum, and now I was having to re-experience those situations, but this time, without her. For example, going shopping, watching our favourite Spanish Netflix drama, going out for walks- all without my mum. However, because of the restrictions related to COVID, this delayed my experience of having to do some of those things as we could not go out. It still instilled a lot of anxiety in me, for when I eventually had to go out into the world. But interestingly enough, the world had already changed, how we were moving out and about in the world had changed- we were wearing masks and social distancing, and living with more fear, and those things in itself made the experience of going out post mum’s passing different anyway.

Something that I found incredibly difficult to manage during COVID in relation to my grief, was that there was nothing to look forward to. We couldn’t make any plans to go anywhere, see people, which meant I felt I was constantly stuck in this mundane routine of waking up, sitting at my desk all day, working day after day. The constant up and downs of COVID cases meant that restrictions were being eased and tightened constantly and still is to this day. I felt I was in a continuous confrontation with my emotions and that is really challenging to deal with. There was no escape, only in the moments I could do something creative like painting/pottery or cooking or reading, but otherwise, I had to sit with my grief, comfort myself, learn to be patient with myself, express myself, process what I could and let it out. It’s an ongoing process, and for those who have lost a loved one during COVID, you’re having to adjust to two things; 1) a world without your loved one 2) a world with COVID-19. Perhaps COVID-19 was in some ways a distraction for me from the trauma of losing a loved one because the impact of COVID has been so devastating for many people but I have learned to just take things day by day, and the days when grief hits really hard, to take things moment by moment. COVID-19 has made the experience an isolating one, so it’s important to still keep reaching out to people and maintaining those connections. Don’t hide from your feelings, let it out and try to find/choose happiness in whatever moment/way you can.

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