Black and white image of grief sad senior woman with head in her hands

How To Handle Grief Created by the Pandemic

Heartache has confronted many people during the coronavirus pandemic as restrictions have separated loved ones from each other for health and safety concerns. The effects of COVID-19 have up-ended our daily lives and routines quickly over the course of the last few months. It has also generated fear, uncertainty, and anxiety for the elderly and their support systems when preparing for visitations and the next steps.

Coping at this time can be extremely difficult for those in isolation, even within a post-acute care setting. Patients and families may find it challenging to deal with stressors brought on by handling grief due to a loss of physical touch. How you handle grief is different for everyone and can materialize in diverse ways. The most important ways to manage the discomfort brought on by grief is to identify and be aware, understand the effects, and focus on self-care.

Acknowledge These Challenging Times Are Not the Norm

Living in a pandemic has changed so much in the state of the world. Health concerns are affecting the start of schools, unemployment is increasing, and people are dealing with the loss of normalcy. It is natural to experience distress in response to losing someone or something you deeply care about. Combine these sudden changes as a result of COVID-19 health issues, and it is understandable to feel a sense of sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or longing. Each emotion is common in dealing with grief and can come and go.

It isn’t easy adjusting to the changes brought on by the pandemic. However, recognize that these challenging times will too come to an end. Try not to place blame or judgement on yourself about the intensity or frequency of your emotions. These are all a part of normal human processes and are necessary to adjust to this new reality. 

Understand the Nature of Grief

Grieving over a loss while coping with fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming and stressful. Grief is more complex than you might think but is a natural response for anyone when something has been taken away. The loss of a loved one, being out of work, or the absence of social connections due to the current health related restrictions have affected many individuals. Strong emotions arise around social distancing and executive orders to “stay at home” and the feeling of isolation is inevitable especially for people like post-acute care patients.

Give yourself room to grieve. This gives you the space to acknowledge the varying emotions that come with loss. Our society is tasked with making changes to keep everyone safe. As a result there may be more casualties in life or freedoms and all need to be mourned. Finding supporting ways to face these challenges and talk them through with others will help in overcoming their seemingly daunting feelings. Connect with others to gain the support you need, virtually or with those you can be close to. These experiences do not have to define your whole reality but they can help motivate you to make changes in your behavior to overcome.

The Impact of Isolation

Post-acute or skilled nursing patients that have been in isolation need to be encouraged during this time. Routine is already upended after an injury or illness. Layering this with the concern of getting the coronavirus during a frail state complicates their anxiety. Patients will most certainly be coping with grief brought on by COVID-19 and feel vulnerable during this time. 

Family and friends have been kept at bay as well, not able to visit spouses or grandparents in these communities and they don’t want to lose out on other shared experiences. With the advance in technology, thankfully video chats have been able to connect patients with the outside world. 

Create a New Routine

Our sense of control has been challenged at all levels when dealing with distress. Creating a routine, however new and untraditional it may be, will give you a new acceptance on the situation. Routines or daily rituals can be a great way to create a sense of normalcy and help deal with the weight of isolation. 

Get accustomed to daily tasks that give you strength and preserve a sense of order and purpose. These are always an important structure to your daily life, and even more so during a pandemic. 

Here are a few tips for add more structured routines to your day:

  • Set good intentions and try to get out of bed at the same time each day – this will open you up to new opportunities to make you more excited about your abilities
  • Eat at regular meal times – this will give you something to look forward to and plan out everyday
  • Plan your day in ‘chunks’ of time – including meals, exercise, tasks related to your loved one’s estate or death, searching for work, or connecting online with family and friends
  • Write a daily ‘to-do’ list and check off items as you complete them – such as attending to administrative tasks or sorting through belongings
  • Carve out time to grieve – being sad is normal when you are grieving and it’s important to give yourself permission to do so and to acknowledge the other emotions you might be experiencing

Practice Self-care

No matter what type of grief you are experiencing, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid and you are not alone. Take this time to learn something about yourself. Give yourself an opportunity to learn a new skill to keep you busy. Attempting to learn something new or create something for someone else can bring you joy. Although, it often depends on where you are in your grieving process, remember this doesn’t need to be finalized in a specific amount of time. Healing from your grief is necessary to move toward the next comfortable step. 

Place your focus on new skills and other self-care practices to feel more accomplished. Aim your attention on personal hygiene care, limit your alcohol intake, media exposure, and increase your mood through exercise. Start to plan for an exciting trip in the future to get your mind off of negative emotions. Remember this too shall pass, we will all get through this if we are strong together.

Grief Counseling in Post-Acute Care

As a premier post-acute care center in Santa Ana, we have a strong commitment to our work and a dedicated spirit of caring within our skilled nursing care community. Our skilled nursing staff take a patient-centered approach to post-acute care and dealing with the expected ailments of loss and grief. Our community is full of very caring and skillful physicians and staff providing high-quality service to help you recover faster. Because of this, we’re the recovery center of choice for patients, providers, and caregivers. In a time where health concerns are at an all-time high, our knowledge of medicine and tools can make a difference. 

Exceptional, compassionate care; every time, every touch. Contact us today!

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