Personal Losses That We Experience During a Global Pandemic

Sarah Strumeier, LCSW on Sep 10, 2020 in Mood and Feelings

We have never lived through a global pandemic as severe as COVID-19. Additionally, we have never experienced so much change in our lives in such a short period of time. This change can look like a series of losses and we may not be aware that the uncomfortable feeling that we are experiencing is grief. Most of us associate the word grief with the death of a loved one, but grief is truly experiencing a period of mourning after a loss of any kind.

Most of us have experienced loss of normalcy, predictability, and control since COVID-19 first began. For example, COVID-19 may force us to confront the grief and devastation that is associated with the loss of a normal routine. Prior to COVID-19, this normal routine may have helped us manage our daily symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. Now, some of us may be debilitated by grief not knowing where to turn.

When we feel unable to cope while mourning our personal losses, especially during a global pandemic, that is when grief and loss therapy becomes essential and necessary. Grief and loss therapy can help us make meaning of the changes and challenges we face as a result of our losses. Below are some personal losses that most of us may be experiencing during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as losses that can be addressed through multiple therapy sessions:

Job Loss

Due to COVID-19, most of us are getting furloughed or laid off from our jobs. Some of us may have been working at our places of employment for many years, whereas others may have just begun their careers or new places of employment. For example, the sole breadwinner of a family of four who found out they were just laid off may be experiencing emotions such as anger, guilt, and frustration surrounding losing their only source of income and health insurance for their family.

Relationship Loss

Prior to or during COVID-19, there are couples who may have broken up or are in the process of getting a divorce, separation, etc. On the other hand, there are couples who have been finding that their relationships or marriages are changing as a result of the quarantine. For example, a person who may have broken up with their partner right before COVID-19 may find themselves incredibly isolated and grappling with intense emotions surrounding their relationship ending if their partner once lived with them. Another example could be a couple that just moved in with one another amid the COVID-19 outbreak and did not expect to have an extra adjustment of working from home with their partner all day.

Loss of a Celebration

It goes without saying that most of us are experiencing loss of celebration right now. This can include a postponed or canceled graduation, wedding, or prom. A loss of celebration can also include not being able to celebrate our birthday or anniversary with a loved one. For example, many high school seniors right now have worked so hard their entire education to get to where they are academically and are unable to attend their graduation ceremony, prom, admitted students day for colleges, etc. Another example can be a couple who has been planning their wedding for years to find out that their venue has closed until further notice and that they need to postpone their date.

Loss Surrounding Emotional/Geographical Distance from Parents/Children

Many first responders are presently isolating themselves due to fear of exposing their families to the coronavirus. First responders having to isolate themselves from their families may experience intense feelings of grief due to missing their old way of life prior to the coronavirus. On the other hand, some of us may be isolating from our elderly parents due to fear of exposing them to the coronavirus. Some of us may be experiencing grief due to having to physically isolate ourselves from our parents and fear that we are missing out on quality time spent with our parents.

Loss of Community/Socialization 

We are all experiencing social isolation right now due to not socializing at work or going out with friends. Some of us may have moved prior to the coronavirus outbreak to a new community and may be mourning familiarity and comfortableness. For example, a friend who attends a virtual video chat with friends may mourn the physical human connection they once had with them prior to the coronavirus. Another example can be a couple who moved to a different state and city right before the coronavirus may feel unaware and unfamiliar with the resources in their communities.

Loss of Hobbies

We all have been directly impacted by loss of hobbies due to this being a normal part of our daily lives and routines. For example, a loss of a hobby can include not being able to exercise at the gym. One may find it incredibly difficult to workout from home if they were exercising in a gym since beginning their hobby. Another example could be a person who normally plays on a local baseball team every Spring and is unable to do so right now due to the coronavirus. The person may find it hard to replace this time with another hobby or activity.

Loss of Autonomy

Loss of autonomy can often come hand in hand with job loss. For example, if a person who was laid off during the coronavirus outbreak was living on their own and can no longer afford where they live, some may have to move back home with their parents or other family members. A person who has had to move back home as a result of a lay off may mourn the independence they once had. Another example could be adults who decided to quarantine with their parents or other family members prior to stay at home orders going into effect. Some of these adults may mourn the independence that came with having their own routine and living on their own prior to going into quarantine.

Loss Surrounding a Physical Illness

Unfortunately, some of us are testing positive for the coronavirus. Whether we have mild or severe symptoms, we may mourn our physical and emotional health prior to getting the coronavirus. We may also experience anticipatory grief surrounding the unknown and unpredictability of the short and long term effects of the coronavirus. For example, a person who has severe symptoms of coronavirus may have good and bad days and they may find themselves mourning their good days or reminiscing on their physical health prior to the coronavirus.

If you are experiencing one of the above losses and feel that you may want to start grief and loss therapy, please consider beginning online therapy during a time where stay at home orders are in place. Although most of us prefer traditional therapy of meeting with a therapist face to face, it is important to seek help when you are presently going through these personal losses and experiencing intense symptoms of grief. Beginning online therapy for grief and loss during this time can improve adjustments, transitions, and coping. Taking the step to seek therapy during this difficult and stressful time can truly inspire others to do the same.

Sarah Strumeier is a Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY.

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