Dealing with grief during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Lydia Winda

Covid 19 pandemic has brought a new normal that most people are struggling to adjust to; from lockdown to curfew, wearing masks, sanitizing or washing hands, no shaking hands or hugging to social distancing among others. Everyone has been affected by covid 19 pandemic in one way or another. One of the major negative effects is loss, could be; loss of a job, a loved one and even anticipatory loss of a loved one who is either sick of covid, business, normalcy, social interactions, freedom, predictable future dealing with the loss of a loved one among other issues. This said, it is vital to acknowledge that different people deal with loss differently both individually and corporately. This article looks at Kubler Ross’s stages of dealing with loss and grief in relation to covid; denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance. It is important to acknowledge that the stages are not fixed. They may or may not occur following the order above, some people may not experience all the stages while others experience all, some experience specific stages multiple times while others only once or never.


One can live in denial of emotional and even physical pain and this delays the opportunity for early intervention and the fight to survive hence preserving life.

Denial in dealing with COVID_19 manifests in the following ways;

  • The government and people are blowing this COVID - 19 issue out of proportion
  • It is like the normal flu
  • I’m not old, my immune system is strong, I don’t have a pre-existing health issue that would predispose me.
  • Covid 19 does not exist


Anger is a common feeling when people are undergoing any form of loss or grief. This is the time one asks themselves the question “why me,”they get the feeling of “life is unfair”. Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, sometimes people; put blame on others, they may become hostile, could refuse to obey rules, externalize the problem and sometimes it could go as far as experiencing power plays.

During this COVID -19 pandemic, anger looks like;

  • This pandemic has been caused by an external country, whose government should have contained the virus to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the world.
  • Why am I the one who lost my job and yet others are still working, did it have to affect me directly?
  • The hospital did not take good care of my patient that’s why he/she succumbed, why are other people getting cured of covid?
  • I don’t care what the government says about staying at home, I’m going to work today.
  • I’m bored and feeling anxious, let me call my friends to come over for drinks so that we catch up. No need to follow government regulations


This occurs once one has processed denial and is in the process of accepting the reality as it is and is able to do away with the belief that they have control. Essentially in this stage, one tries to compromise to find an easier and less painful way.

During this covid pandemic bargaining looks like;

  • All these will end soon before December and we shall go back to living our normal lives
  • I can tell if someone is sick from seeing how they look. I will be fine so long as I stay around people who look healthy.
  • I hardly visit crowded places, so I’m safe from it.
  • It is ok to spend time with others so long as they wash their hands, wear masks and you observe social distance


Despair and depression crop in when the truth eventually sinks in and there is no more room for denial. At this point one feels hopeless, powerless, inability to control what is going on around the person and all seems lost. At this stage, one is bound to feel sorry for themselves. There is also regret at the fact that the effort put in at the bargaining stage did not yield any fruits. Some people withdraw from life, feel numb and not want to come out of bed. The world might seem too much and devastating for an individual. Some may have suicidal ideations since they don’t see the point of soldiering on.

During this covid pandemic, despair sounds like;

  • I don’t feel like leaving my bed. Even if I do, where will I go given that I cannot drink with my friends? I cannot go to school or work.
  • COVID does not look like it is ending soon. My life will never go back to normal.
  • I have incurred losses as a result of closing down my business, I will never recover.
  • I’m not able to pay school fees for this semester, I will never finish campus
  • There is nothing worth living for anymore, I just want to sleep and never wake up again
  • I have no control over how covid is affecting my life, I feel helpless.
  • I have lost a loved one, will this pain ever go away? I don’t think I can live without them.


This is the point where you make peace with the fact that you cannot change whatever is happening around you. Accept the new normal and live with it. Accept that there will be good and bad days

Acceptance during covid pandemic sounds like;

  • The world will change, but maybe when all this is over, people will be better human beings
  • I cannot control COVID - 19, but I can play my part by washing my hands, wearing a mask, observing social distance and being positive.
  • I might not be in a position to meet my friends physically, but we communicate via video call, hold social sessions via zoom, call and chat. I can also work from home if I cannot go to work.
  • Make peace with having online classes. I am lucky enough to be going on with classes albeit online. My academic life is not at a standstill.
  • Even though they are gone physically, they will forever be in my heart. I will forever cherish the good memories we created together.

How to cope with loss and grief during this COVID -19 period;

Acknowledge and accept all your feelings. Acknowledge the pain caused by the loss then allow yourself to go feel the pain, go through the process and give yourself time to recover. Do not rush, recover at your own speed. Denying the loss does not reduce the pain, but instead lengthens the suffering.

Talk about your loss. This can help lower the burden of grief as a problem shared is half solved. You can reach out to family and friends through voice or video calls, chat, text and any other online platform.

Take stock of what is going well. Journal or write down about your strengths and good moments each day to monitor your progress. Even as you do this, be cognizant of the fact healing occurs in difference phases as described above and you move into and out of different feelings. Be aware of your triggers even as you pen down your feelings and thoughts each day. Be aware of any form of relapse.

Pay attention to the things you have control over. Like Being sad and the negative thoughts running through your head, stay at home as much as you can, washing your hands or sanitizing as often as is necessary, keeping social distance, eating healthy foods, exercise and maintaining a daily schedule

Self-Care. Get plenty of rest, eat regular meals even if you don’t feel like it, exercise regularly and allow yourself to be happy when you fee

Be aware of any helpful resources available. You can seek online counseling by sending an email to to talk to a therapist, job advertisements online if job hunting, business ideas, spiritual support from your spiritual leaders, medical assistance in the event of health related challenges among other resources.

When to Seek Help

Feelings of grief are natural reactions to significant losses. If these feelings persist, your mood does not improve or worsens, or you feel unable to function and perform basic daily activities, reach out for help.

Adopted from psychology today

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