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Navigating Grief During Difficult Times

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Navigating Grief During Difficult Times

Everyone grieves differently. When the world was shaped around COVID-19, any type of loss posed a different challenge, with obstacles that were new. We searched at the time for different ways to navigate our grief rather than a “traditional” journey.  Rituals, gatherings, goodbyes, and other ways we typically found closure were no longer options. We have a language in our culture that helps us create meaning around “traditional” loss. Because any loss during that tumultuous time wasn’t “traditional,” there wasn’t a card at the store that adequately put words to your experience.

Moving Through, Not Around

Grief has a tendency to create strong feelings like isolation and guilt. How do you navigate it?

Non-Traditional & Online: As you explore different options, ask yourself: “What do I need? What am I comfortable with?” It can be helpful to identify these new options. Memorial services and funerals now have online choices if that’s what you’re more comfortable with in addition to traditional ways of supporting each other by gathering together in person.

Pursue Connection, Community, and Healthy Distractions: Even after the world opened back up after the worst of COVID, how we connect and how we engage with our community has changed. If you are connected with a faith group, you have the option of going in person or joining online in many cases.

  • You can still plan a “Zoom hang out” with a friend or with your family members if you aren’t in the same state or country, or even if you don’t feel like meeting in person.

  • Plan coffee dates at your favorite hangout or a new one, or through Facetime.

  • Celebrate a birthday with a combined in-person and Facebook live event.

  • Use your hobbies and interests to search for and join in person or online a community with like-minded interests, an event, or a gathering.

Sometimes in your grief, it feels like a much-needed breath of fresh air to have a healthy distraction. Sometimes you won’t feel like engaging. And that’s okay too. In the dance of grief, it’s okay to disengage. There will be other moments to re-engage. Something that feels strange and unmanageable one day could bring joy and peace the next.

Connect with Others Who are Grieving: When you are ready to connect more with the emotions around your grief and share in the experiences of others who are also grieving, some of my favorite recommendations are What’s Your Grief? and Modern Loss. Grief support groups like Grief Share can be a great way to feel welcomed into an environment with others sharing similar experiences.

Grief moves us through a great deal of pain. But it also guides us to honor, remember, create legacies, deepen our spirituality and faith, and re-author our changing stories with new meanings.

by Brad Unruh (with Carrie Phelps), Sunset Contributors

About the Author: Brad Unruh is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has his own private practice focusing specifically on couples counseling and coming alongside those who are grieving. To find out more about Brad, the services he provides, and events he is having, follow his practice on Facebook, go to his Psychology Today profile, or reach out to him at