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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away many people’s beloved family and friends. Losing a loved one is perhaps one of the most devastating losses in life; and the journey of grieving is arduous, messy and sometimes can feel like ‘two steps forward, one step back’. That is why people who are grieving are in need of tremendous love and support more than ever.
In conjunction with World Mental Health Day 2021, we would like to shed light about grief, and what you can do to support someone who is grieving.
People rarely open up about grief, even more so in an Asian society like ours. Yet, it is often the things we don’t talk about that needs to be brought into light. To help someone through grief, it would be useful to deepen your understanding about the process of grief, starting with the Five Stages of Grief:
Denial — As the first stage of grief, it’s common for people who have just experienced loss to be in a state of shock and denial. At this stage, people feel overwhelmed and find the world makes no sense at all. Nevertheless, denial is nature's way of ensuring our survival when something as shocking as losing a loved one happens— it allows us to let in only as much as we can handle, and pace our feelings of grief.
Anger — Many grieving individuals are angry, because underneath the intense anger is their pain—pain of feeling ‘abandoned’ by their loved ones who died. Grieving individuals who are angry can lash out at the most trivial thing. Just know that they require tremendous patience and understanding in this process. Don’t suppress the anger, feel it instead, and work through it.
Bargaining — Before a loss, it seems like one will do anything if only one’s loved one would be spared. “If only…” and “what if…” statements are common thoughts, which are often accompanied with guilt. Grieving individuals may think they could have done more to save their loved ones.
Depression — After losing a loved one, depression would soon follow, leaving the person in a state of intense sadness that seems to go on forever. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response.
Acceptance — This stage is about accepting the reality that the loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. The person can finally begin to live again, but it will not be possible until time is given to grieve properly.
People may be in multiple stages at one time, and they may manifest in different ways. Not everyone who is grieving would show the same response, and it’s important that we pay attention to their emotional needs and do not expect them to respond a certain way to grief. Everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time.
As a third party, we tend to avoid talking to people who are in grief, out of fear that we might say something inappropriate to them. Yet, we forgot that the best response we could give sometimes is to lend a pair of listening ears—just let your grieving loved one know that you’re there to listen. During the process of communication, don’t try to minimize their loss, provide simplistic solutions, or offer unsolicited advice. It’s far better to just listen to your loved one or simply admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.
It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. To help such a grieving person, instead of saying “let me know if there’s anything I can do”, you may instead offer a specific suggestion like “I’m going to the market tomorrow morning, what can I bring for you?”
If you’re able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance. Offer your practical support even after the funeral may help your grieving loved ones to cope better.
While the state of depression is common among those who grieved, if the bereaved person’s symptoms don’t gradually start to fade—or they get worse with time—this may be a sign that normal grief has evolved into a more serious problem, such as clinical depression. Be aware when your grieving loved ones start to show these symptoms:
Image credit: calm sage
Encourage the grieving person to seek professional mental help. It can be tricky to bring up your concerns to the bereaved person as you don’t want to be perceived as invasive. Instead of telling the person what to do, try starting your own feelings: “I am troubled by the fact that you aren’t sleeping—perhaps you should look into getting help.“
DOC2US would like to take this opportunity to remember those who have departed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to acknowledge that the pandemic does not only claim many lives, but it also forever changes the lives of those who have lost their loved ones to this battle. Life can be tough, but so do we. While it’s never easy to say goodbye (sometimes we don't even stand a chance to ), each of us carry a piece of those we love, and we shall carry them with us for the rest of our lives. They may no longer with us, but their legacies shall remain in those who are alive.
The COVID-19 Memorial Malaysia website is a not-for-profit volunteer-run online memorial, for the sole purpose of remembering those who have lost their battles to COVID-19 in the country. You may host an online memorial for your loved ones who lost their battle against COVID-19.
Let us all be a little less afraid of grief. After all:
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