Whether you have been bereaved by Covid-19, or from another cause during lockdown, the isolation and stress will not have helped. Even if you haven’t been bereaved, you will be grieving for your lost social events and connections with friends and family. These seven tips will help you get through.
1. Talk, write, share
Talking about the death and voicing your thoughts and feelings is hard, but it helps you make sense and accept the reality of your loss. Speak about it or write it down in a journal. There are many social media support groups to meet other bereaved people. The more you talk, the easier it gets.
2. Don’t compare your grief with others
One of the perils of discussing your grief with others who have lost someone, is comparing your reactions and behaviour to other people. Your grief is unique and personal. Grief in your own way, it’s not a competition.
3. Maintain a routine
It’s hard making the effort, especially living alone. Whilst the occasional pyjama day is fine, when it becomes a habit, you may slide into depression. Maintaining routines in your day, in your health and beauty regime, your diet and your exercise, helps to boost your body’s natural mood-lifting chemicals.
If you have no one else to cook for it’s easy to skip meals or snack, rather than prepare a balanced meal. Cooking is a good distraction from your grief (see tip 7) and the lovely meal you produce helps your mood. The amino acid, tryptophan, is found in chicken, red meat, fish, milk, eggs, tofu, oatmeal, nuts and beans. Your body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a natural antidepressant.
An exercise routine gives you a sense of achievement, and releases the reward drug dopamine into your brain, lifting your mood with a feeling of elation. Exercise is another distraction (see tip 7). Strenuous exercise releases endorphins, a natural opiate for relieving emotional pain.
6. Keep in touch
Zoom, telephones and social media keeps us in touch with those we love. Hugs may be off limits, but emotional connections release the love drug oxytocin. We feel loved and secure from an oxytocin boost (Stroking your cat or talking to your dog has the same effect). Shared laughter is another way of releasing serotonin.
7. Distract yourself
People who do best balance grief with distraction. On one side they dwell on the loss. On the other side, they get on with work, hobbies, pets, social contacts, exercising; whatever is helpful. This is called the Dual Process Model of grief. Experts Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut identified this intuitive way of grieving. Each person finds their own balance.
Grief is hard. It takes as long as it takes. You don’t get over the loss, you learn to live comfortably with it. You will find more help in my book.
Dr John Wilson is a fellow of York St John University, and director of the Bereavement Service in the University’s Counselling and Mental Health Clinic. His book, The Plain Guide to Grief, is available from Amazon for £9.73.
When someone loses a loved one, we tip-toe around the issue, unsure whether to bring it up - and feeling awkward if we do. And we’re often just as clueless when it’s our turn to grieve for the first time. I know I was. My dad died when I was 14. Back then, I thought grief meant being sad for a while, shedding some tears and that would be that. Grief would go and normal life would resume. But when my mum was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in my mid-20s, I knew better. Most of us, if asked, could offer up a dictionary definition of grief. One that explains it as a concept. But what does it feel like? In my experience, grief is so overwhelming that any words used to describe inevitably fall short. So instead, I will tell you what grief is not...