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Impact of COVID-19 on loss and grief: a personal lens

02 June 2020
Volume 25 · Issue 6

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is changing the way people live their lives, with the introduction of social distancing by different governments across the globe, at a scale never seen before. Such huge change can be argued to be loss of normality as we know it, and as is usual with any loss, grief follows (Murray-Parkes, 2010; Worden, 2018; Kessler, 2019). Using Kessler's new ideas of adding meaning as a sixth stage to the grieving process first developed by Kubler Ross in the late 1960s, this commentary discusses the impact of COVID-19 on loss, grief and the meaning people attach to their circumstances.

The first step is acknowledging that this loss we are experiencing applies at multiple levels: personal, social, economic, political and also global aspirations. With that, comes uncertainty and anxiety, leading to such a mixture of emotions that find their way through our own levels of consciousness. The fact that deaths in their hundreds per day in the UK alone are being shared with us on a daily basis means we are being connected together emotionally in collective loss and grief. As human beings, we are connected at that level, and we are also connected as health professionals, as are other key workers. At my university, we learnt of the death of one of our aspiring students, and all those who knew the student, like me, will feel some grief. The fact that we cannot even attend the funeral rituals or support the family physically due to social distancing tends to compound the grief felt. Normally, at funerals, people offer support to the family and friends and pay their own respects to the dead person, but with COVID-19-related deaths, we now see mass burials without family and close friends and, with that, the lack of dignity and uniqueness of the death. This is no criticism of the authorities, but simply to point out the impact that COVID-19 and these protective and necessary measures have on grief and life going forward.

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