Updated: Feb 16
Disclaimer: With the help of a editor, my writing is my own Pleas forgive me and excuses any limited grammar errors due to my diagnose learning disability dyslexia
During this time of the pandemic there has been a lot of tragedy, tragic loss of loved ones, suffering of sick loved ones, the emotional and mental strain brought on by financial worries in the family. The new normal in grieving now is not having the physical connection we used to have during the passing of a loved one.
I have been thinking about this a lot, the pain and suffering that people are going through has been heavy on my heart. It is a very tragic experience and heartbreaking as well. During the course of my life I had two of my grandparents pass away, one was extremely close to me and the other I never really saw as much as I would have liked. My first grandfather passed in 2018 from complications resulting from Parkinson’s Disease. This was my first time ever really experiencing a family member sick first hand. Over the years he got progressively worse. In the last year of his life his health declined rapidly until an incident landed him in the hospital. Then, after a month of battling he passed away. His death was the most uncomfortable feeling I have ever felt. The hardest part of my grief was that I never thought he would die. I never really thought that someone so close to me could die. My experience growing up in a conservative Christian household was that there was never really any talk about death and grief. I saw my grandmother mourn over her brother and sisters, but she never talked about it. What I did hear from church members is “it is the Lord's will”, “he/she is in a better place”, or “ people’s time will soon come” (Caribbean saying). What I experienced with my other grandfather was extremely different. He died in the midst of the pandemic. My grandfather was very sick for a while, I did not grow up close to him and I should have made more time to get to know him but I felt a lot of guilt and very disconnected from that side of my family since I did not know them that well. What I did realize is that my culture plays a role in how I process grief and death: death will come, you may cry or may not cry and then you move on, that's it. Yet, I feel that grief is still not fully processed in a healthy way. I also notice some family members who are still dealing with unresolved family problems and their grief. I was curious to know more about grief, the true process about how I was feeling, what to do and how I can help others who are grieving. I think the tips will help those who have the same questions and concerns I had about grief.
Grief, of course, is the response to loss, a loved one that has passed. Grief is deep sorrow and suffering for a loved one. “The Mourning after: A Round Table Discussion of Grief and the Pandemic” was a Facebook live round table discussion. This discussion was brought by Shawnte Johnson from WWDYH Founder, moderated by Dr. Xellex Rivera, who is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and the three panelists were David Edwaards from the A.M.E Zion Church, Marcus Handy, and Mykia Sanaders. Here is the link if you would like to replay the Facebook live.
The discussion was about each panelist's personal experience with grief pre/post pandemic and what they have learned from their grief. Dr. Rivera opened up the discussion about the seven stages of grief which are
Shock and denial.
Pain and guilt
Anger and bargaining
The upward turn
Reconstruction and working through
Acceptance and hope
I learned that these stages are all a “process”. It’s important to remember that allowing yourself to grieve is a healthy part of healing. People will eventually experience grief, but we all go through the process at different times and deal with grief differently, yet the feelings are very much relatable. Here are some important questions that were asked during the discussions.
The 1st question : How has Covid impacted you in your greiving process? This question was very much relevant because they all share the similarity of being in a pandemic and thinking of their loved one, even though some panelists, such as Shawnte Johnson and Marcus Handy lost their loved ones pre-pandemic. It was during this time where their process took the most effect. They began to explore their feelings about losing a loved one. For David Edwards, his experience with loss is still in the beginning stages. He recently lost his grandfather in the middle of July, which made it more challenging for him to see him due the shut down and the fact that his grandfather lived in the West Indies. Mykia Sanders, lost her father in February right before Pandemic took effect, during that time for her, she wanted to be close to her family however the shutdown made it difficult.
The 2nd question: What did you learn about yourself as a result of your loss/ grieving process? Marucs spoke about how he had to embrace the reality that his loved one was gone and that things will get better even In the middle of a pandemic. David also said that he has not fully processed the passing of his grandfather. David and Mykia, being the Pastor's kids, expressed the feelings of numbness when it comes to death because of attending many funerals of others. However, for Mykia, when her father passed (who was a pastor) it was a very tragic experience. Mykia spoke about how that same numbness turned into denial and then turned into a reality for her: that her father was actually gone. “I bargained with myself, and I try to keep it away from my 10 year old son. Finally, when I allowed myself to actually feel it, it was such a breath of fresh air. It was at that moment I realized it was okay to let him go.” quote by Mykia Sander.
The 3rd questions : How do you think the stage of grieving has affected your relationships? Majority of them related to this question very much. Marcus realized that his grieving process affected how he trusts others and how he can build trust. It made him more vulnerable around certain family and friends he normally was not vulnerable with. Mykia agreed with this as well, for her, she learned that it was okay not to be okay and this brought her to allowing herself to be vulnerable around others. She felt that it was through this action that she truly found healing and acceptance. David felt somewhat in-between. He wanted to be isolated and also distance himself, not realizing that his family and friends supported him through the whole process which allowed him to feel vulnerable. David expresses the feeling of constantly holding himself up and being strong and wearing “a mask”, but he learned that he doesn't always have to be strong. Even though these panelists shared the same feelings when it comes to their relationship, sometimes it can be the opposite. For Shwante Johnson, pushing and being distant from people was helping her not feel the sadness of her grandmother’s passing. She expressed gratitude that her family and friends were patient with her, while working on expecting their support.
The 4 Question: What do you want others supporting others during their grieving process to know? - This was a great question to ask, especially if you yourself never experience grief or loss, but you know someone who is or has. Each panelist shared that patience is very important and patience matters to one who is grieving. It is also okay not to know what to say, but know that you can be there for that person. Marus spoke about the best help he ever received from a friend when he just found out that his grandfather had died. His friend asked him “how can I help”? He didn't know what he needed, but he felt reassured that help was offered. He also stresses the importance of not undermining another one's loss or relating it to your own experience of loss. It best be empathetic and compassionate to that person.
As the discussion closed Dr. Rivera ended with words of being extremely mindful of your own grieving process and of other grieving processes as well. The process is about you (if you are grieving) and the process is about the individual. How we engage with people in their process needs to be genuine and humble. “Death can bring such a harsh reality” said Dr. Rivera
This discussion brough great understanding in the field of mental health. I learned a lot about it and because of this discussion I am more open to embrace others who are grieving and how better to help my own grieving process. It brought me closer to my faith, and what the Word of God says about its grief. .
The Word of God and Grief:
The following scripture addresses the gravity of different types of loss, while reminding believers that there is great strength in their faith. Here are two scriptures that I have meditated on that relate to losing someone:
Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Repeating this over and over helped me to never lose the understanding of God. Recap:
What to do in the grieving process ?
Give yourself time to process- I think this is so important because in the discussion the panelist talked about how they kept busy and distracted themselves so they wouldn't feel. However bottled up emotions tend to explode. It is okay to feel and your feelings about your process matters. Give yourself space and time off from your obligations so you can express to yourself how you are feeling.
You can cry it out (if you want to)- This will allow you to fully feel the effects. For others crying doesn't work or doesn't happen. That's okay too. We all feel grief in a different way. So embrace how you are grieving.
Find a support group- Check around your community, facebook groups, churchs, etc. to find a support group to guide you through this process. Make sure you have a space to feel safe in.
Seek comfort from friends and family- Seek out a friend or family member that you can connect with to be a listening ear or help you remember the good times that you had with that love one.
Rely on your faith and not what people think- your faith will get you through the process. It will be difficult, but spend time with God and embrace those feelings you are feeling, the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe God wants to hear it all even if you are upset with God. He can use all those feelings for a good purpose.
Look to things that you take enjoyment in- As you grieve, I encourage you to continue to do things you love to do. Doing the things you love will bring your creativity out and this will help you to express the emotions that may be challenging to express verbally.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle - it's important to have a healthy nutritional diet and exercise regularly. Having good nutrition and consistent workout is one coping skill to help in the grieving process.
Journaling - writing can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Even writing a letter to your loved one that passed can bring comfort and peace.
How to help someone else during the grieving process?
I'm very sorry for your loss,
I know how much that person means to you.
How can I help you or how can I be a support to you
Be mindful of your words, They are not looking for advice. They are looking for a shoulder to rest on, they are looking for understanding and compassion.
Sometimes you might not know what to say and that's okay. The best thing you can do is to be there for that person
Don't be distant, set a respectful boundary. Reach out politely, but also give a little space so that individuals can have time to process their grief. Some people want to be left alone, but sometimes being too alone gets individuals into dark space. Watch out for signs for this so that you can help be a support for that person. Other times individuals that are grieving rather have the company having someone around helps them know that they are not alone during this process. .That brings me to my third tip.
Bring them something they like- flowers, a card, a delicious meal etc. this will help them during this time especially a meal. Many times during the grief process individuals lose their appetite.
Pray for them and their family- Ask God for peace, love and comfort. Also pray for their health and well being that they can eventually receive hope, acceptance and that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 CSB
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” John 14:27 CSB
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.”1 John 4:18 CSB
There is no set timetable for grief. You may start to feel better in 6 to 8 weeks, but the whole process can last anywhere from 6 months to 4 years. You may start to feel better in small ways. It will start to get a little easier to get up in the morning, or maybe you'll have more energy during the day. I encourage you to explore those same questions that were discussed in the table talk . This may help you during the grieving process.
How has the pandemic impacted your grieving process ?
What did you learn about yourself as a result of your loss/ grieving process?
How do you think the stage of grieving has affected your relationships?