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Grieving the Loss of a Loved One During a Pandemic

Grief is one of the strongest emotional experiences we have. When we lose someone, it can be a painful journey of feelings of loss and missing what was or could have been. COVID-19 (coronavirus) may be impacting the way we grieve the loss of a loved one.

What’s different:

  • We may worry that a loved one may have died alone or was not able to have their religious or cultural wishes honored, due to social distancing measures.
  • Rituals we typically use to say goodbye, such as visitations or funerals, cannot happen the same way we are used to due to social distancing.
  • We may also be grieving other losses in our lives.

What you can do:

1. Accept that your feelings may be overwhelming.

  • There is no timeline for feelings—they will come and go.
  • Grief can come in waves. Sometimes the waves are close together while other times they are further apart.
  • Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
  • In between these waves, try to enjoy normal life pleasures.

2. Name your loss and acknowledge its significance.

  • For example, tell yourself or a friend: “I miss talking with my sister. She and I shared so much history: I miss having lunch once a week with my best friend now that she is gone.”

 3. Journal.

  •  Take time to write down what comes to mind when you think about your loss. Just let it flow.

4. Figure out what brings you comfort versus what is simply a distraction.

  • Will a walk help? Being wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a good book? Would it help to cry or yell, or both? 

5. Share stories of your loved one.

  • Sharing memories helps us hold our loved ones close after they’re gone.
  • Reach out to others you know who have experienced loss. Don’t be afraid to bring it up when talking to them or others you love. 

6. Connect with friends, family and your community.

  • During this time, many of us are using virtual meetings, and others are using the telephone to connect and share.
  • Make a list of friends, loved ones and/or members of your community you’re going to call every couple of weeks. Treat those conversations with the same presence that you would if you were sitting at a dinner table with them.

7. Create a routine.

  • Try and stick to a routine. Create a schedule to help provide structure.
  • Make a daily to-do list to give yourself direction.

8. Keep in mind that we may sometimes postpone grief.

  • Grief takes a lot of our attention. It can take over our lives for a period of time. If you have lost a loved one and need to focus on caring for others during this time, allow yourself to feel your feelings, and let yourself set these feelings aside if you need to be present to other things. You can always come back to them.

9. You’re not alone if you are experiencing guilt.

  • Acknowledge your feelings and talk about them with others.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself grace.
  • Focus on positive thoughts and memories.
  • Develop a plan for how to remember your loved one. Maybe it’s picking up a new craft they enjoyed, or supporting their favorite charity. Or, if you lost a friend, writing a letter to their family can help. 

What to avoid:

1. Isolating yourself.

  • While it’s important to socially distance at this time, avoid socially isolating.
  • Spending too much time alone can lead to negative thoughts and make it harder to cope with grief.
  • Reach out to your support systems—family, friends and/or support groups.
  • Allow your family and friends to help you.
  • Connect with your religious or spiritual community.

2. Not taking care of your health.

  • Taking care of our bodies helps us take care of our minds and feelings. Healthy nutrition and a kidney-friendly diet gives us the strength we need to keep going.

Losing a loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges. There is no correct timeline for grief, and no right or wrong way to grieve. You’re doing the best you can during this time.

Please reach out to your social worker for additional support. We are here to listen and help you through this. You are not alone.

You can find more information about coping with COVID-19 here.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a medical provider.

Please check with a medical professional if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. In case of emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department.