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Coping with Loss and Grief During a Crisis
By Evalisa McClure, VITAS® Healthcare

Grief is a natural response to loss, and feelings of loss can be compounded during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes, grief-related pain and symptoms—which can be emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual—can feel overwhelming, especially for people who are already mourning the death of a loved one.

Bereavement experts at VITAS Healthcare remind us that grieving during non-crisis times is a highly individual experience. The nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care knows there is no right or wrong way to grieve, no “normal” timetable for grieving. Healing happens gradually and cannot be hurried.

In times of crisis, however, key factors and reactions can intensify your grief and hinder your ability to heal and recover from it. These include:

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Heightened sense of loss
  • Increased isolation and intensified grief

If you are in mourning, the intensity of your reactions will vary, depending on the nature of the loss and its meaning in your life, the nature of your relationship with the person who has died, other life stressors, and your personality, coping style, and life experiences.

How to Care for Yourself and Get the Support You Need
Calming your anxiety begins with learning how to process grief during a crisis. Consider these self-care tips:

  • Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information only from trusted sources.
  • Avoid unhelpful coping strategies and substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
  • Be careful with “what if” thoughts. Manage your worst-case scenario thinking.
  • Engage in personal self-care activities that bring joy (e.g., phone/virtual communication with friends and family, reading, listening to podcasts, watching comedy).
  • Practice relaxation, meditation and self-expression via books, apps and online videos (e.g., yoga, mindful meditation, relaxation, writing, music, art, dance).
  • Stay in the present. Take one day at a time.
  • Utilize spiritual faith resources.
  • Consider telehealth for mental health support (online consultations, teletherapy).
  • Eat sufficient and healthy food. Exercise when you can.
  • Monitor yourself for prolonged sadness, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness.
  • Remind yourself how you coped with past life challenges and enact those coping strategies today.
  • Call 911 for any health emergencies or if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others.

VITAS offers a variety of remote bereavement support groups, free of charge. Led by VITAS bereavement specialists, these phone and Zoom groups provide resources and guidance to those experiencing grief and loss. Sign up today or find additional bereavement support at VITAS.com/grief.

Evalisa McClure is general manager for VITAS Healthcare in Pittsburgh. For more information about end-of-life care services, call the nation’s leading provider at (866) 759-6695 or visit VITAS.com.



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