Coping With Loss And Grief During A Global Pandemic

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Deacon Otmar Gindl and employees of Bestattung Himmelblau undertakers rehearse the livestreaming of an upcoming funeral on March 24, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
Deacon Otmar Gindl and employees of Bestattung Himmelblau undertakers rehearse the livestreaming of an upcoming funeral on March 24, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

We’re all feeling a lot lately, including loss. We’ll discuss grief and grieving during a global pandemic.


David Kessler, speaker and writer focused on grief, loss, hospice and palliative care. Founder of Author of "Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief."(@IamDavidKessler)

Dr. Sonya Lott, clinical psychologist specializing in anticipatory, acute and complicated grief counseling. Founder and CEO of Continuing Education in Multicultural Psychology (CEMPSYCH, LLC), an organization providing continuing education in multicultural competency for mental health professionals. Host of the podcast, “Reflections on Multicultural Competence.”

We Put A Call Out To Listeners: 'How Are You Managing Grief And Loss During The Coronavirus Outbreak?'

Here's How Listeners Responded:

John is a recently retired prison chaplain from Marshall, Missouri. John says he often saw 'complicated grief' when he worked as a prison chaplain. Now, John says the whole world is experiencing 'complicated grief' because of coronavirus. "We have the losses of the disease, the losses of economics and then the social isolation piled on, so our grief gets complicated," he says.

Andrea is a museum consultant in Washington, D.C. She says she's grieving the loss of the museum field. "We are incurring huge losses, not just from the people who are laid off," Andrea says. "But museums that are surviving are now thinking to themselves, 'Who are we?'"

Gabriella called us from Princeton, New Jersey. Her father passed away about 20 years ago when she was 28, and she said she’s reminded of that grief again during the coronavirus outbreak. "I feel I have a big loss of control over my life," she says.

Lily, a case manager at an elder services organization outside of Boston, called us from Arlington, Massachusetts. She says that although they’re still able to take care of their clients, physical distancing has been difficult.

Sandra from Woodstock, Illinois had a suggestion for helping older loved ones deal with isolation and grief: "If they can open a window, or if you can see where the window is ... play a piece of music that they really like," she says. "Have the nurse open the windows, tell them that it's their daughter, their son, their husband, their grandchild outside sending them a message."

Jennifer called us from New York City. She’s been at home taking care of her husband who had COVID-19, the flu and pneumonia all at the same time. "That's what I had to cope with," she says. "And I seem to have gotten through it because he's turning a corner. But I do think there are a lot of people who may not be that lucky."

From The Reading List

Excerpt from FINDING MEANING by David Kessler

Excerpted from FINDING MEANING by David Kessler. Copyright © 2019 by David Kessler, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The New York Times: "Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus" — "When it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, what’s the word related to mental health that you hear most? If you said 'anxiety,' you’re not alone. But if you were to sit (virtually, of course) in a therapist’s office like mine or any of my colleagues’, what you might hear just as often is the word 'loss.'

"This may seem obvious, because many people are experiencing tremendous loss as a result of this global pandemic: loss of life, loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of jobs and income. For those who are losing loved ones at this time, there is also the loss of the normal rituals of funerals and communities gathering to grieve together.

"But what might be less obvious are the smaller losses that also affect our emotional health.

"... Right now, in addition to the tragic losses of life and health and jobs are the losses experienced by people of all ages: missed graduations and proms, canceled sports seasons and performances, postponed weddings and vacations, separation from family and friends when we need them most.

"We have also lost the predictability that we take for granted in daily life: that there will be eggs and toilet paper on supermarket shelves, that we can safely touch a door knob with our bare hands, that we can get a haircut and our teeth cleaned or spend a Saturday afternoon at the movies."

Harvard Business Review: "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief" — "Some of the HBR edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.

"If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We turned to David Kessler for ideas on how to do that.

"... Kessler shared his thoughts on why it’s important to acknowledge the grief you may be feeling, how to manage it, and how he believes we will find meaning in it."

NPR: "Coronavirus Has Upended Our World. It's OK To Grieve" — "On weekday evenings, sisters Lesley Laine and Lisa Ingle stage online happy hours from the Southern California home they share. It's something they've been enjoying with local and faraway friends during this period of social distancing and self-isolation. And on a recent evening, I shared a toast with them.

"We laughed and had fun during our half-hour Facetime meetup. But unlike our pre-pandemic visits, we now worried out loud about a lot of things – like our millennial-aged kids: their health and jobs. And what about the fragile elders, the economy? Will life ever return to 'normal?'

"'It feels like a free-fall,' says Francis Weller, a Santa Rosa, Calif., psychotherapist. 'What we once held as solid is no longer something we can rely upon.'

"The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe has not only left many anxious about life and death issues, it's also left people struggling with a host of less obvious, existential losses as they heed stay-home warnings and wonder how bad all of this is going to get."

This program aired on March 30, 2020.


Brittany Knotts Freelance Producer
Brittany Knotts is a freelance producer for On Point.


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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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