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Grieving in Trying Times
From:
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly , NJ
Monday, April 06, 2020


Dr. Patricia A. Farrell
 

 

 

 

The pandemic of the COVID-19 virus has led to the death of over 10K Americans and many more tens of thousands around the world. The Prime Minister of the UK is a victim of the disease and was admitted to intensive care in a British hospital recently.

 

It is a time of grieving comparable only to the plagues of the Middle Ages and bears many similarities in how we are permitted to honor our dead.

 

The incredible ferocity of the virus and how fast it is spread means that the loving touch, the gentle kiss, the quiet goodbye in a home, a funeral home or some other setting are forbidden. The nature of this prohibition makes grieving even more painful as we must stand apart, perhaps behind partitions, without the permission of a final whispered word.

 

It is as though we diminish a life well-lived and a person too soon gone from our lives. And it is not any less painful if that life lasted for eight decades or eight months.

 

How Do We Grieve

 

Psychologists tell us that there are five distinct stages of grief, but that is highly questionable because of the bias in the theory put forth. There is a useful process, but it may not be as outlined.

 

However, I will outline the steps in the grieving process here with the caution that you not feel your grief must follow this prescribed path. We all grieve in our own ways in the end and there is no one method of handling the emotional and physical pain of loss.

 

The stages as outlined include:

 

1.Denial: You cannot accept that the loved one has died and it may be, in some sense, surreal. They can't be dead, you think, it must be a mistake, and something must be done to bring them back. You may feel numb and overwhelmed and almost incapable of action.

 

2.Anger: Who made this happen and why did it happen? You question medical staff, caregivers, family, and God. Someone must be responsible and it wouldn't or shouldn't have happened.

 

3.Bargaining: A review of your actions, your life and your interactions with the deceased begin to play out. Could you have done something different, should you have not done something and, of course, why did God do this to the person or to you? Promises of future actions may be made. But it is all futile. There is no coming back.

 

4.Depression: The overwhelming sense of loss seeps in as the realization becomes all too real and it affects your emotions, your inability to sleep and eat. There may be a sense of regret and loneliness. Life looks bleak and you question the future and the possibility of happiness. Even the thought of future happiness may be nearly impossible.

 

5.Acceptance: Gradually, as the days progress into weeks, an acceptance of their death comes into our lives and we envision a life without that person. Even this may be difficult because some of us will see it as a betrayal of sorts and we need to work on that.

 

Should the brief not resolve within a reasonable amount of time and return us to our usual activities, further steps may need to be taken. This is a time of extended grieving for a number of us and it may best be handled with the assistance of mental health professionals.

 

Grieving, in many forms, aids us in dealing with the loss of loved ones. Different cultures have specific ways of handling death and the loss we feel. Recently, even the funeral practices in the United States have changed from home to funeral homes and now to simple burials in unmarked graves where the environment is enriched by the burial.

 

In a Time of Pandemic

 

The disease has changed our rituals and we will have to devise new ones that allow us what we need. It doesn't matter how the process is carried out whether through a large meal, a celebration of life party or any other means.

 

What we need is to have the emotional release that these rituals provide. The manner in which we grieve isn't what matters, it's that the ritual allows us time for that release and acceptance of the remaining human fellowship that we enjoy.

 

We can do nothing to change the past and the future is ours's to live. The thought of living a future as a tribute to the departed loved one can be enlivening.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

Author's page: http://amzn.to/2rVYB0J

Medium page: https://medium.com/@drpatfarrell

Attribution of this material is appreciated.

 
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Tenafly, NJ
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