How Do I Accept All of These Changes?: Grief and Loss in the Time of COVID – 19

April 23, 2020

Grief and Loss in the Time of COVID – 19

By Audra Wallace, APCC


A Couple of weeks ago we got the notification that students would not return to school until the next school year. That message hit my high school senior daughter particularly hard. She will not get a senior prom, a graduation, or all the special senior activities that are deemed a rite of passage. Her emotions have been a lot like grief: angry, sad, mopey, hopelessness, pain both physical and emotional. . . We of course are working on the resiliency and the reframes but the grief and loss are real. COVID-19 and social distancing are creating losses which create the same feelings of grief that we experience with a death of a loved one. The grief process also occurs with the loss of a job, career, hope, opportunity, connection, and rites of passage.

Having experience in hospice grief counseling, I thought I ‘d share some information about grief and loss. Often people, even clinicians, think of the process of grief as Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief which are: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance. These stages were designed for individuals coming to terms with their own death process. Processing grief and loss is different than coming to terms with one’s own mortality. I’d like to offer the best practices framework that hospice grief clinicians use with clients who are grieving losses of their loved ones.

Grief clinicians frame the process of grief with William Worden’s Tasks of Mourning. I have slightly adapted them for the losses that we are all experiencing in a COVID-19 world.

The Tasks of Mourning are:

1. Accept the reality of the loss

2. Process the pain of the loss

3. Adjust to a world with the lost ... people, activities, things

4. Find an enduring connection with your losses while embarking on a new normal life.


Here are ways to use the framework of the Tasks of Mourning to adapt to the grief and loss of COVID- 19 (You may recognize some resiliency crossover from my last article):

1. Accepting the reality of the loss means not fighting the change. We can control only what we say, think, and do. Let’s accept that. Resisting a change over which we have no control yields the same state of mind as having expectations that do not match our reality...

Expectation is up high, reality is down low, and in between is frustration. Acceptance is the peace that comes when we quit resisting. It is what it is...Letting go is key to finding your flow with mindfulness and coherence through body, mind, and spirit connection (yoga, meditation, square breathing, or the inner balance tool).

2. Process the pain of the loss means being able to identify, feel and communicate about your pain of the losses associated with COVID-19. There is sadness, fear, anger, helplessness, hopelessness and a whole variety of emotion that goes with loss. There is no way around grief.

There is no over... under... around, only, through grief. Stuffing or avoiding emotions only allows for emotion festering, which in the end, become bigger and messier than if the emotions are confronted and addressed. How do we address emotions? Acknowledge them, feel them, learn to tolerate them and talk about them with a caring person and or a mental health clinician. Acceptance of your-self and you’re your emotions are key to processing the pain of loss with out judgment.

3. Adjust to a world with those things lost means taking on new responsibilities or learning new skills, adapting to a new identity, and grappling with a new purpose and meaning for your life. Spiritual and existential adjustments occur when we ask ourselves difficult questions about how we used to exist and how we want to exist moving forward. In a COVID–19 world how do we adapt? I see great creativity occurring all around. Technology has allowed us to continue to connect, create and express ourselves, but it isn’t quite the same as getting together physically. Listening to music doesn’t replace all the feels of watching a band live. However, wait for it ... here comes my favorite strategy of Reframing. Learning to get by with less allows us to reevaluate the truly important and to examine the excesses of our pre COVID personal

worlds. Adjusting the way that we think is the key to adjusting to a new normal world.

4. Find an enduring connection with your losses while embarking on a new normal life.

Ultimately all the questioning and grappling help us to find a balance between the world in which we used to live and the world in which we now live. This is the task of mourning where

we find peace with our new world and are pursuing a full and meaningful existence. Setting and accomplishing weekly or even daily goals are helpful. Keep a schedule and find ways in which you can contribute to your community. These things help to promote a sense of purpose and value for ourselves. Purpose and value are human needs; without them we lose our identities and reason for being. Forward thinking and goal setting for this new COVID–19 world, are key to embarking on a new normal life.

We can emerge from COVID -19 grief and loss with a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. We and the world are forever changed but not for the worse. You are not alone, and we are here to help.


It is only from a place of empty that we can become filled, from trauma that we are forced to grow, from fear that we find faith and hope.


While we are all grieving the loss of a pre Covid-19 world, please remember that our team of professional counselors at Coherence Associates, are here for you and with you! We are fully operational with our confidential Telehealth services, it’s easier than you think. Please reach out and call at 760-942-8663.

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