Loss in the times of COVID-19

By Noemi Vigano, Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Clinical Lead for product research and development at SilverCloud Health 

In this 3-part blog series, we focus on the importance of protecting your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic 

Part 1: Understanding your emotions and how they are helping you 

Part 2: Dealing with loss in the times of COVID-19  

Part 3: Coping with uncertainty. 

Part 2:  Dealing with Loss in the times of COVID-19 

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We've all had to make changes to protect ourselves and the most vulnerable during the pandemic. As a result you may be experiencing the loss of a lot of things, including basic routines, social contacts, celebrations, holidays and events and things that gave you a sense of safety and security. Once they are taken away, we can really notice the impact these things had on our lives and our well-being.  

When we speak about loss, we are usually referring to the loss of someone. At this time, it is important to acknowledge that you can experience grief over the loss of something too. 

 

We can be grateful for the things we have while experiencing a sense of loss for the things we have had to let go. It's possible to grieve for something, while still being thankful for the many ways in which we may be considered 'lucky'.  

Acknowledging your losses allows you to understand your experience, so you can then let yourself grieve. 

Loss in the times of Covid-19 

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Loss can come in many forms, the most common being the loss of a loved one through death, illness, or separation of some kind. It can be described as the removal of anything that has importance and meaning for a person. A decline in your health, your sense of safety, or losing your job can all be counted as a loss. During these challenging times, you may be experiencing the loss of: 

  • A sense of certainty. You may be faced with financial or work-life uncertainty. You may also be worried that you or loved ones could get sick. We have no idea how long this will continue and how it will impact our lives in the long-term. Everyday life and routines have been - at least temporarily - lost. 
  • A sense of safety. It is hard to feel safe when we are unsure of the simplest day-to-day things in life. Regular tasks that we usually do on autopilot, like getting groceries or ordering takeaway food, now require extra consideration and may even require specific safety-measures that we previously didn't have to follow. Suddenly, we’re not so sure about everyday things: do we need to wipe groceries down before storing them away? Is it safest to remove all packaging from items we buy? 
  • A sense of control. A daily or weekly routine can help create a sense of order and control in your life. With the current crisis, we've experienced the loss of our commute to work, the daily school or creche run with our children, our morning coffee with colleagues, and our social lives. This lack of structure can negatively impact our wellbeing. 
  • Freedom. The restriction on movement means we can no longer do what we want when we want anymore. During this crisis, it's essential to follow the official guidelines from health organisations and our government to protect ourselves and our communities. But practising social distancing and adhering to travel restrictions has caused us to lose some of the freedom that we have exercised up until now.  
  • Plans for the future. You may have been organising a holiday, a celebration such as a wedding or a birthday party, studying for final exams at school or college or perhaps preparing to graduate. All of these celebrations and milestones are now postponed, and this can create a sense of loss in your life. 
  • Closeness. Humans are profoundly social animals that need physical proximity and closeness. Thankfully, most of us live in a connected society where we can easily stay in touch, even when we are miles apart. However, you may have lost the opportunity to comfort a friend in times of need, to be beside a loved one as they were sick, to cheer a friend up or to be there to say goodbye as someone close passed away. 

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  • Meaning and purpose. The crisis may have cost you your job, or you may be waiting to return to work once the government reduces current restrictions. You may find you are less efficient if you're juggling work and childcare or working in an uncomfortable or noisy environment. Whatever your situation, if you feel less productive or that you're not as 'together' as usual, you may find that it starts to impact your sense of self-worth. 

All these ways of experiencing loss can cause grief that is similar to when we lose a loved one. Let yourself acknowledge your losses - even if it is not a bereavement  and let yourself grieve for them. Grieving is a non-linear experience and will feel different to you at different times.  

  • What have you lost in the current situation? 
  • How does it relate to how you have been feeling since the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions started? 

The final part of this blog series we will look at coping with uncertainty and the importance of self-compassion.