Grief grows amid COVID-19. Here’s how to cope and build hope

The pandemic has brought about a wave of grieving. The loss of people. The loss of normalcy. The loss of many community gatherings.

But not everyone who is grieving might realize that’s what they are experiencing or know what to do about that, said Lisa Balster, director of patient and family support services at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.

Balster said her team has always tended toward the bereavement needs of patients and families, but had noticed during COVID-19 that there are many people not necessarily experiencing a death of a family member or a loved one, but who had lost a way of life.

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“Grief doesn’t only apply to when you’ve laid someone to rest. It can apply anytime we lose anything that’s important to us. And I think people are realizing what was actually important to them,” she said.

People can grieve in different ways with different emotions, from anger, to depression to hopelessness, to resentment over what’s been taken from them. Combined with the isolation of the pandemic, it can be a recipe for poor mental health and poor coping mechanisms.

To help, Ohio’s Hospice is launching the first of an ongoing video series for support called Conversations, a discussion of important topics of the day. Those who are interested in viewing the Conversations program or learning more information can visit OhiosHospice.org/Conversations.

The first topic in this occasional series features Cope & Hope. Panelists discuss grief, coping mechanisms with grief and difficult situations, faith and spirituality, and living losses.

Balster said there are approaches that can help people who are grieving or even traumatized. Find connections and call others. Manage distressing feelings, such as making a plan for what you’re going to do when distressing feelings like anxiety and depression come up.

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“And surprisingly, something that really, really helps grieving people is finding someone else to help ... what happens is that in giving, you can receive, and you can even feel better about yourself and your purpose in the world,” she said.

Some people don’t normally express how they feel out loud or aren’t part of a family that often says out loud that they love each other, but she said with so much grief and loneliness, now is the time to try to bridge that gap.

“If you can’t see people and you can’t hug people and you can’t be sitting at the dinner table with people like you normally would, then you still need to find a way to connect. You need to find the words to say, I think you’re special,” Balster said.


Help and Resources

Ohio’s Hospice’s Conversations program, with resources for people struggling with the impact of COVID-19 on their life, is at www.OhiosHospice.org/Conversations.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The Ohio CareLine at 1-800-720-9616 is a toll-free emotional support call service created by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Behavioral health professionals staff the CareLine 24 hours a day, 7 days/week. They offer confidential support in times of personal or family crisis when individuals may be struggling to cope with challenges in their lives.