Wondering Why The COVID-19 Health Crisis Might Be Making Your Grief Worse?

These are just a few reasons why we might find our grief spiking during the COVID-19 health crisis. There are many reasons the current crisis might make your grief feels worse; tell us about it and let us know how you’re coping! 

Over the past few weeks, many people have shared that amid the COVID-19 health crisis, their grief feels worse and symptoms have intensified. While this is an extremely difficult and unprecedented time for everyone; the one thing I can assure you: if you find your grief spiking right now, you are not alone! It is completely normal and expected that in times of crisis, whether personal or collective, our grief can skyrocket. Below are some reasons why this may be happening:

  • Your emotional and physical energy stores are already depleted. Grief can deplete us of vital and core energy; especially in the early days. When you are faced with a crisis and/or tragedy and your emotional and physical energy stores are already low, everything becomes more challenging and can feel impossible to cope with. Undertakings that may have been relatively manageable prior to COVID-19 may suddenly feel insurmountable.
  • You already feel alone and isolated. Most of us know that grief is almost always an isolating experience; especially in the case of disenfranchised losses such as the death of a beloved companion animal.  Factor in shelter in place, social distancing and quarantine and your feelings of loneliness are very likely to be at an all-time high. If your companion animal was your primary source of companionship and/or you are living alone and no longer having contact with people by getting out of the house, then you may start to feel exponentially lonely and isolated.
  • Your companion animal was your secure base and primary source of comfort during difficult times. For many of us, our companion animal was the source of unconditional love and positive regard and in their own special way took care of us; making us feel safe in times of change and uncertainty. If this was true for you then you’re likely even more acutely aware of their absence now than ever and naturally your anxiety might be spiking. 
  • You’re not thinking about or actively grieving your loved one because of the current crisis.  You may be experiencing an acute stress response and feel so overwhelmed by the current health crisis that you are not thinking of your loved one or being present to your grief; which in itself can cause a different type of grief. This can bring up a lot of guilt for some people; but remember that it is completely normal if your brain doesn’t seem to have “space” for your grief. Our brains can only handle so much emotion at one time and sometimes, as a self-protective measure, we go back to feeling disconnected or detached from our sadness and grief. Our brain can compartmentalize and prioritize things so that we can focus on a crisis that is front and center. The acute stress response from this current health crisis will eventually settle down. 
  • You’re thinking about your companion animal more than normal.  While some people may find themselves not thinking about or grieving their loved one during this time of crisis, some people long for and miss them even more.  In times of pain, stress, crisis, we often think about and want to be close to our beloved companion animal and that emptiness can trigger our grief in very profound ways. We might imagine what they would have done and how they would have given us strength and comfort during this time which can add to our already heightened anxiety.
  • You’re imaging that everything would be better if they were still alive. It is very natural do this in times of grief, but especially when we experience additional crisis such as COVID-19. When life becomes challenging, it is human nature to go back to a  time when our loved one was still alive and think, “if only they were still here, everything would be so much better”. Yes, they would be here and alive, so that would obviously be better. There is no doubt that having our beloved companion animals by our side would certainly make our reference point better since we wouldn’t be coping with grief AND the health crisis at the same time.  But as for the rest, we really have no way to know what sort of “different” it would be. What we do know is that the longing for our loved one becomes intensified and can make us feel as if we are back to day #1 in our grieving process. More than ever, now is the time to practice self-compassion and find healthy, creative ways to stay connected to others! Peace and health to all!

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