How to face grief in times of coronavirus?

Grief is one of the hardest moments a person can experience. Saying goodbye to a loved one is a pain difficult to describe and a feeling that will accompany us, in one way or another, for the rest of our lives. To cope with this process, it is necessary to go through a series of phases to cope with the loss in the healthiest way possible, and not allow the pain to become chronic.

Grief in exceptional circumstances

However, the current situation of health crisis has meant something unthinkable today: the inability to say goodbye to our loved ones. Although health centers are already working to improve this situation and, even, psychological services are being enabled for this purpose, there are people who have not had the opportunity to dismiss their loved ones , either because they have been affected by the coronavirus or for other causes or pathologies.

In these exceptional moments, also at the AECC we want to be by the side of people who have lost a loved one . For this reason, in addition to giving psychological support to cancer patients and family members, during this health crisis we attend to all people who are experiencing a grieving process, regardless of the cause of death.

Strategies to overcome the loss of a loved one

Regarding how the mourning process is altered in these circumstances, Jesús Samper, psycho-oncologist at AECC Valencia , points out, in addition to the impossibility of parting, the need to share the pain in the way we would like. “It is common for things that we cannot do to acquire special importance, such as hugging, crying together and, ultimately, sharing our suffering with others.”

On the other hand, when talking about the grieving process, many people focus on the moments closest to death. However, the reality is that grief is a deeper process. Therefore, although the farewell cannot be in person , the psycho-oncologist points out “the importance of remembering the many moments in our lives in which we have given our love and closeness to our loved one.”

Emotions in the grieving process

Expressing and normalizing emotions is another important step in overcoming a loss. Obviously, it is not the same to do it in normal circumstances, as in a situation like the current one; where it is not possible to get out and clear, go to work, or be able to rely on friends and family.

Cristina Flor, AECC social worker , warns that ” high intensity feelings can be experienced , such as deep sadness, rage, despair, helplessness and helplessness, even guilt.” However, there may also be what the expert calls an “emotional anesthetic.” That is, difficulty connecting with what is felt and a feeling of unreality.

Cristina Flor’s first advice is to give us permission to express these emotions . For this, it is important to have a conversation with oneself about what it is that is costing us the most to face. And, of course, having someone you trust to talk to about it. In addition, he points out, “it is important to enter pain in order to repair it, but also to be able to get out of it, in order to continue living.”

It is also important, as Pablo Rodríguez, a psycho-oncologist at AECC Baleares remembers , that we spend time taking care of ourselves. Exercising, eating healthy, observing our emotions and thoughts -even writing them down on paper- are some of the self-care resources that will also help us go through a grieving process.

How to address the loss of a loved one with children

Another issue to address is how to grieve with children at home . It is not the same to have a space alone to express the pain and then tell the news in the best way possible to the children, than to have to go through the process at home all together.

In this regard, María Montejo, a psychologist at the AECC Zamora , clarifies that it is important to have a conversation with the children about what has happened. “The ideal would be to take a few minutes to organize the ideas, and then transmit the information to them. All this with a simple language adapted to their age, and influencing issues such as the emotions that are normal to feel at this time. ” Despite this, while pointing out that it is healthy to be able to show our emotions in front of children , and even cry together, “we must try not to collapse ourselves and continue to transmit the security they need.”


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