Helping Our Friends Grieve

The coronavirus has changed the way we grieve. How can we be there for each other at this dangerous time?

Lynn (not her real name) can only stare blankly at a wall, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her 18-month-old daughter is crying, but she is unable to attend to her. Her husband is in the hospital, but she is helpless. Visiting him is impossible; the doctor told them he has COVID-19. Lynn reached out to her best friend Mindy, who feels she cannot do enough to help.

How can you help someone who is in a situation wherein it is possible to lose a loved one?
We all struggle to find the right words to say to people close to us who are grieving. Sure, we can offer our condolences, but is that enough to someone who is close to us?

Years ago I went to the burial of a friend’s father. I did not say much, but I spent much of the day just sitting in a corner and being just someone my friend can talk to. I then realized that my mere presence, and that of his other friends’, is helpful to my friend; it showed him that someone is there for him.

The final moments of a coronavirus victim

During the olden days, saying goodbye to a loved one starts days or hours before a loved one finally breathe their last. We get to talk to them, say how much we love them, and even ask for forgiveness. When people are able to do this, it eases the blow of losing someone.

These are not possible these days with the strict isolation that hospitals impose on all patients, COVID-19 related or not.

“Ambiguous loss”

When people are not able to say goodbye or pay their last respects, then they feel an ambiguous loss. People feel helpless, powerless, and of course, frustrated. There is no closure with an ambiguous loss. Anger, guilt, and loneliness are also common reactions to people who are grieving.
The challenge now is, how can we help people cope? Here are a few of the things you can do to help out a grieving friend.

Reach out to your friend. You do not have to say the right words. Just be there for them. Better yet, offer your help on something. You can help clean the house, or throw out the trash, or do the groceries for her.

Listen. Sometimes, they just need someone who will listen to them. Encouraging people to talk about will also raise their awareness that their loved one will never come back. This may seem brutal, but acceptance is important if they are to deal with the emotional impact of the loss.

Offer resources. The internet has plenty of resources that can help people who are grieving. 7 Cups, of which yours truly is a member, is one of the sites you can go to if you need to talk to someone.

Psychology, more than pharmacology, will play a big role after all this. It will be the gold standard in treating depression and anxiety that might go along with the grief that people will feel.

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