Mourning Your Loss During a Time of Pandemic
As a survivor of the suicide of a loved one, you are no stranger to loss. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are suddenly faced with many new types of losses to deal with that may make mourning particularly difficult and stressful.
For those newly impacted by suicide, health-mandated social distancing has deprived us of traditional grief rituals. We may not get to honor our loved one in the manner that we would have wished. Funerals and memorial services are important ceremonies in which we begin to accept the reality of the death and begin the essential work of mourning and healing. Without the ability to be physically surrounded by friends and extended family, those navigating new loss are deprived of the outpouring of love and support that an in-person ceremony provides. Most funeral homes have accommodated this need by offering drive-by visitations and live-streamed services. Online condolences become even more meaningful for those who are unable to contact the family personally. An advantage of the virtual funeral experience may be that friends and family from long distances who ordinarily would not be able to attend a physical funeral ceremony may now be able to attend online. Many families choose to delay a remembrance ceremony until such time as they can gather in person and pay tribute to their loved one.
The ongoing support we have had from others may not be physically available for now. Please take advantage of phone calls, video chats, and yes, even letters and cards, to connect with those with whom we have a therapeutic bond. Helpline has begun offering its monthly grief support group and Surviving After Suicide support class virtually, via Zoom. While we miss the intimacy that meeting physically affords, we are also gratified to be able to offer these important programs to an expanded group of participants. For now, being within driving distance of Helpline is no longer a concern.
Additional losses can compound the feelings of loss that we experienced before the pandemic struck. Working from home may leave a survivor adrift, deprived of organization in their lives. The structure provided by going to work and being with co-workers often provides a welcome diversion from the frequent thoughts of loss and pain. It provides a place to “feel normal” during the workday. It’s important to try and build routine and structure into days which might become scattered and disorganized without that familiar routine. Setting goals, making lists, and being accountable to our co-workers aid us in that effort.
Loss of freedom is particularly frustrating if you are not able to out into public and exercise, shop, socialize, or pursue any of the activities that previously gave you enjoyment and diversion. Fortunately, we have begun to open up and public gathering restrictions are being lifted. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities in a safe and healthy manner by using masks, sanitizers, and good hygiene practices to prevent the further spread of the disease. We must also be prepared for future “waves” of the corona virus that may necessitate a return to stringent social distancing mandates. We need to bear in mind that surges in illness may force our leaders to “pump the brakes” on opening up and rein in some of our restored freedoms.
Loss of income is a very real concern and also leads to heightened anxiety and distress. Many have lost all or part of their wages due to business closures and quarantine. If you are struggling with additional financial stress because of COVID-19, please call 2-1-1 to learn about available resources that can help you weather this economic storm.
Losing someone to suicide often gives us a sense of unreality, as if our world has been turned inside-out. Living through a pandemic is also surreal. Both leave us, in varying degrees, with a sense of shock and disbelief. Please know that Helpline is there to support you — every day, all day. You have been through something that no one else can ever understand but fellow survivors. We are always and absolutely better together.