Intro: Conversations About Mourning, Grief, and Loss

As we enter the third month of adjusting to the impact of COVID-19 on ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities, it’s important to take time to observe the many different feelings that go along with so much change.

Change and the Unknown
Some of our routines probably feel as familiar and comfortable as they always have. Some, like wearing gloves and masks, are new and remind us about the changes we are undergoing, both big and small. There’s a sense right now that things are different than they were not too long ago, and maybe an even bigger sense that we can’t be sure whether things will stay different, veer back toward what feels familiar, or evolve in directions that haven’t yet crossed our minds. Uncertainty like this can feel very confusing, scary, or overwhelming. We might wonder whether it’s best to think that things are merely “on hold,” or whether instead, we should be preparing to say goodbye to routines and customs that we’ve become deeply attached to.

Allow feelings to come and go without judgment
When we think about the emotions that go along with worrying about the future and having a sense of “not knowing,” we often think of anxiety. But as we occasionally have moments of longing for what once felt secure and predictable, there can also be feelings of sadness and loss, as well as the anticipation that there might be more of these feelings down the road. Like all emotions, if we can acknowledge and put words to the feelings we’re having, we can use them to stay connected to ourselves and our loved ones to help us cope with uncertainty.

Understanding the grief is a start
As we become more aware of the very human impact that COVID-19 is having on the physical and emotional health of our population, awareness of loss and sadness is hovering right on the emotional surface. Families are grappling with losing or caring for loved ones who become sick yet also having to navigate being physically separated from each other. Rituals we rely on to help us bear and make meaning of illness and loss are disrupted. Celebrations that bring friends and family together such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, and holidays are, too. These rituals that connect us to one another and affirm our communities are altered or absent right now.

Home Base Resources to Cope
As loss and grief are very individual, unique, and at times isolating emotions, we’ll be sharing a series of reflections on them as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll be looking at topics including

1) How to understand and acknowledge some of the feelings of loss that are arising in response to the pandemic

2) How to reach for and offer emotional support and compassion in the face of unexpected loss from COVID-19

3) How to cultivate feelings of emotional safety amidst the uncertainty about the changes we have already started to navigate.

If you or someone you know suffered a loss, Home Base is ready and available to serve you and your loved ones during this time. To learn more about our family, bereavement and support services, visit homebase.org/connect2care, or call our clinic at 617-724-5202.

About the Author: Dr. Brian Van Buren is a staff psychologist at Home Base. He has clinical and research interests in cognitive-behavioral and integrative treatments for PTSD and moral injury.  In addition to his work with veterans and Service Members, Brian is part of the Home Base Family Team and provides couples therapy services.