Skip to content

Live and Work Well


Coping with Grief during COVID-19

Coping with Grief during COVID-19

By: © 2020 Optum, Inc. All rights reserved. April 04 2020

People usually think of grief happening from the loss of a loved one. But grief can happen from any major change or loss. The COVID-19 crisis has interfered with people's normal routines. Most people get a sense of relief having a routine and knowing when something is expected. All that has changed for the time being and we are left with a sense of not knowing what comes next. Many people are also worried about what the “new normal” will look like once the crisis is over.

Grief can be experienced as feelings of shock, sadness, anger, and confusion. Grief can make people feel overwhelmed, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, sleep less or more, or have changes in their appetite. These are normal responses to loss or change.

Below is a list of some things that you can do to help get through the grief:

  • Reach out to family or friends or co-workers by phone, text, email, or video calls. It helps to talk about it. Part of grief is thinking that no one else is feeling the same things. When you talk about it, you see that you are not alone.
  • Exercise at home to music or an online video or yoga. Exercising can help your mind and body stay healthy. This may be a great time to learn relaxation or visualization techniques. There are many sources for these online.
  • Try to limit the amount of time watching negative content on television. Stick with credible sources for health information such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control), or WHO (World Health Organization)
  • Walking and riding a bike are safe ways to exercise. Just be sure to talk to your doctor first before significantly increasing your activity and remember to follow social distancing rules. Usually this means staying at least six feet apart.
  • Try to keep up a healthy diet and eat regularly. Taking care of your body helps your mind stay well too. During time of grief, many people will turn to food. More than ever, please be mindful when nourishing your body.
  • Talk together as a family about the changes and sacrifices we are being asked to make. Help young children to talk out their feelings or fears and let them know that it is safe to do so. Be open to answering questions and concerns that children may have and how to work together to cope with those feelings.
  • Reach out for professional help. Many counselors and therapists are offering phone or video call appointments. Professionals can help you handle strong feelings.

Be kind to yourself and others. Find ways to connect as much as possible.

Losing a Loved One during COVID-19

Grief during COVID-19 is more difficult because often we aren't able to physically be there for one another as we deal with the emotions. Feelings of sadness are normal after the death of a loved one. But during COVID-19, many people are delaying services. And those that are taking place need to follow social distancing guidelines.

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has released guidelines that advise that funerals be limited to "no more than 10 of the descendant's immediate family members." Social distancing guidelines need to be followed at all services. This usually means keeping people at least six feet apart. The NFDA notes that individual states may have more restrictive guidelines. The NFDA guidelines can be found here Opens in a new window.

Traditions of grieving together and holding a funeral or memorial can help people cope. We are not able to share grief in ways that we have in the past. So we need to find other ways of supporting one another.

Below are some suggestions that may help:

  • If you are planning the service for a loved one who has passed, ask about setting up streaming or video that you and others can watch from home. If you are not the one arranging the service, ask if streaming, listening to, or watching the service is possible. Ask if they can archive the service for those with young children who might be frightened.
  • Look into online support groups for grief and loss.
  • Arrange a virtual service for family and friends to share stories, memories, and feelings.
  • Plan a memorial, celebration, or other service to commemorate your loved one after the restrictions because of COVID-19 has lessened. For example, you can look into the types of places you would want to hold the service, make a list of who to invite, and what you would like to say. Prepare for when you can put these plans into action.
  • Think of ways that you can perform a ceremony or commemorate your loved one from home. You can try lighting a candle, planting flowers on your patio, or creating a commemorative photo journal.

These suggestions cannot replace the traditions of mourning together. But in this difficult time, finding new ways to help people find solace at a time of grief is worth the effort.