Woman standing by decorated tree staring out window

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

                                                      T. Roethke

We are all waking up to the fact that life has changed because of the novel coronavirus. The reality of a new set of restrictions and routines has begun to set in, and for the time being at least, life will be very different. People who are grieving the death of a loved one already know the painful change of a “new normal” as they cope with reactions to a world disrupted by the loss. Grief is hard enough when the society around us is relatively stable, but now grievers must deal with the additional changes which have been thrust upon us all. And they are being told to practice social distancing as they do so!

One of the vital tasks for each grieving person is to find and rely upon a supportive social network, and in doing this, to find the right balance between time spent with others and time spent being on one’s own. The challenge is to avoid isolating in a way that ignores one’s need for social connection, and this means becoming more intentional about how to care for oneself and connect with others. Here are some ideas for connecting and engaging with the world around you while grieving in this time of social distancing:

  • Reach out to family or friends by phone.

    The sound of a familiar, friendly voice can be a reassuring gift.

  • Reach out to family or friends with FaceTime or Skype or some other video connection.

    The technology that allows you to see and interact with someone who cares can be a significant connection. You can even set up a regular time to connect in the coming days, a time you can look forward to as you face the challenges of the future.

  • Try online games with others.

    This can be an engaging way to interact, enjoy a challenge, and pass the time in a way that provides some distraction and pleasure.

  • Get out in nature.

    Fortunately, many of our parks and green spaces allow for you to keep a social distance from others while being there. Take a walk in the neighborhood, if you prefer to stay close, or travel to a larger public park and let yourself feel the solace of nature’s vitality and openness.

  • Do what you can at home.

    Be creative in looking for ways to exercise. Draw upon the comfort and companionship of a beloved pet. Find a game or hobby that engages you and other family members. Try journaling about your day, your grief, or any feelings you may be experiencing. For some, household projects can be a wholesome way to immerse oneself in an activity. For some, reading or meditation or other activities can feel good.

These days you may have more free time, so be careful of overdosing on the news or letting yourself get mired in an unhelpful state of brooding. If you find that things are becoming too hard to bear, consider contacting a grief counselor for support. Our Montgomery Hospice and Prince George’s Hospice grief counselors are working from home these days, along with many other professionals, but we can reach out to you by phone if needed.

We are all learning how to deal with this new reality. For those who are grieving, we encourage a thoughtful approach to your needs for support and connection, and a gentle patience with yourself in the days to come.

Kip Ingram, 2020
​Director of Bereavement