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Because family life matters

Grieving alone during the COVID-19 crisis

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Grieving someone close can feel extremely lonely at any time.  But especially so if you believe no one could ever understand your deep pain of loss. It is at that point you desperately want the physical comfort of an embrace and someone to help relieve that loneliness by listening.  After all, by nature, we are relational beings.

You may have other people living in the house with you, but grieving is an individual process and your grief is yours. If they are grieving too, they may just not have the capacity to listen and take on your emotions as well. But you may be living on your own, as the person who was living there with you has now gone.  And you now have no-one to talk to and say how you are feeling. Or perhaps the only other people in the house are your children and you don’t want to add to their struggles by opening yourself up.

In the current crisis, you may be confined to the house and no-one can come and visit you. Even if you are able to get out, you still need to keep the recommended distance from others.  Such conversations in public just aren’t the same, even if you feel up to talking. All this can compound those feelings of loneliness that are a natural part of grieving as we process the uniqueness of our situation. So what can we do?

Here are six suggestions that you may find helpful:

  1. Find different ways of communicating with people who are special to you, especially those who will listen and bring you comfort. Writing someone a text or WhatsApp message can enable you to put down some of the things that you are feeling, where you might find articulating them on the phone more difficult. If you want to see that person and have WhatsApp, Messenger or something similar but can’t quite face calling them, why not send a message asking them to video call you?
  2. Write a letter to the person who has died, telling them how much you miss them and how different your world is without them. This can be very cathartic, as it is a helpful way of focusing your thoughts and emotions.
  3. If you haven’t already saved photos, voicemails and social media content from the person who has died, why not spend some time doing so. Many find hearing their voice again and seeing what they’ve written a real comfort.
  4. Make a memory box containing some special items that remind you of the person who has died. A good place to start is to find things that represent happy memories, sad memories and ‘everyday’ memories. You can also add things that remind you of special places, special occasions, clothes they wore and food they enjoyed. Even if this is something that you’ve done before, there may be other things that you can think of that you’d like to include – how we remember them can evolve over time, so it’s natural that we may want to change what’s in the box every now and then.
  5. Download the Little Box of Big Thoughts, which is basically a set of small cards containing a number of unfinished sentences which you can then complete in relation to the person who has died. You’ll find them really helpful in describing your unique relationship with that person – you can either fill them in online (not all browsers allow this) or print them out and write on them. Once printed, they can be cut into squares and kept in a special place (your memory box perhaps).
  6. Some people find it helpful to talk with someone else who has experienced a similar loss.  Care for the Family offers telephone befriending for those who have lost a child up to the age of 35 or a partner early in life (check out our webpages or call 029 2081 0800), but there are a number of other organisations providing online support through video groups or chat forums on social media.

Whatever you choose to do, it’s important not to keep it all to yourself.  Reach out to someone else, or ask them to reach out to you. Talk about your memories, some of the things you’ve been doing and how you are feeling.  Be aware that, as grieving is an ongoing process, your feelings may change from day to day. Above all, be kind to yourself and anyone else you are in contact with.

In this current situation, don’t forget that others are still there and willing to help.

You might be grieving alone but you don’t have to do it on your own.

Resources:

You may find this short animation ‘Saying Goodbye’ from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust helpful when explaining the death of a loved one to children.

GRIEF – navigating the loss of people we love, especially in a really challenging season’. A really practical and helpful short video by Dr Laura, who talks about her own grief from both a personal and a professional perspective.

Some helpful ideas about Things to Consider by the Good Grief Trust.

AtALoss.org provides some good ideas for the current crisis, as well as signposting to other organisations that you may find helpful.

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