Grieving in exceptional times
What is Grief?
A death in your family or in your circle of friends is always difficult. You may feel shocked, upset, tearful or distressed. You may find it difficult to concentrate and to realise what has happened. You may be angry or frightened. These experiences are particularly confusing and intense in the early days and weeks of a bereavement.
In Ireland, we have a long tradition of coming together in the days after a death. We all understand the rituals that happen around a death, and they often provide comfort. These may involve a wake, a funeral, a burial or cremation. There may be a gathering or meal after the funeral and later, a month’s mind. People have found arranging a funeral, meeting with family and friends to be helpful. We share stories and memories about the person who died. We laugh and we cry. We pay tribute to the person who died through our mourning.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the traditional ways we mark our grief. For the moment, it is not possible to come together and to gather in one location. It is not possible to have a large funeral. It may not be possible to receive the company of those who wish to offer condolences. However, we can support ourselves and each other in different ways.
Ten ways to support yourself when you are grieving
- Try not to become emotionally isolated. Even if people cannot visit you, allow them to offer their condolences and support in different ways; you may receive texts, emails and messages through social media as well as phone calls.
- Try to allow yourself to feel and react in a way that is natural to you. We sometimes say that ‘grief is the price we pay for love’, and there is no doubt but it is painful.
- Keep conversations going with the people who are closest to you, your family or close circle of friends.
- Even if those closest to you are not physically near, reach out to them and make sure to telephone someone each day.
- Having ‘conversations’ through WhatsApp or through Facebook can mean there is a regular flow of communication through the day.They can remind you that people are thinking about you.
- Remember to eat and to keep hydrated. Your body has needs and grief is hard work.
- Keeping some routine can be helpful and mealtimes play an important part in this. So too does bed-time and getting-up time. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Try getting out in the garden, if possible.
- If there are children in your family, check-in with them often. Answer their questions honestly. Don’t ‘fob them off’. There are some useful resources below.
- Children may appear sad and happy in the space of minutes. It can be likened to jumping in an out of puddles. Let children set their own pace.
- Try to limit how much news and social media you consume – when you are feeling very sad, regular news can be distressing.
Remember: In grief you can only do the best you can, try to be tolerant and kind to yourself
Five ways to help others who are grieving
- To help a grieving friend, think about how you might send your condolences – write a card, complete an online condolence such as on RIP.ie, send a text or telephone. You might share photos or drop food and little gifts at a person’s door to offer comfort.
- Reach out, make yourself available not just in the short term but in the weeks and months to come.
- Ask your friend how they are doing, ask what might help, listen carefully.
- Offer practical help, for example with meals, shopping etc.
- Offer to help with technology, for example with setting up video calls, WhatsApp or other ways of keeping in touch
You might find it useful to look at bereavement websites or resources or videos. Some useful websites and resources include:
What’s Your Grief
HSE minding your mental health
Talking to children about Corona virus
Advice on talking to children about the corona virus from the Department of Education and Skills
Irish Childhood Bereavement Network
Print out for a friend
Maybe you would like to print out this page and share with a friend or colleague, or you can download it as a PDF here.
Please help the Irish Hospice Foundation to continue to support those facing end of life at this unprecedented time of need. Text IHF to 50300 to donate €4. Text costs €4. The Irish Hospice Foundation will receive a minimum of €3.60.
Service Provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 076 6805278