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Weekly Tips & Insights

Navigating Grief in Times of Isolation

Updated: May 28, 2020

Grief brings a gamut of emotions. A loved one’s illness or the loss of a loved one is always difficult to navigate, but it has become even more so in the midst of social distancing. VNA Chaplain Sara Swinson shares some helpful guidance for those experiencing grief while also being isolated from their loved ones.

Maintain Connection

It’s challenging not being able to physically be there for each other, but it’s possible to still stay connected while responsibly practicing social distancing. Even a simple phone call is a great way to connect, whether it’s to a loved one you’re unable to visit or with a friend who can offer empathy and a listening ear. A card or a handwritten letter is also a welcomed gesture.

“During this time, I’m focusing on reaching out to patients and families,” says Swinson. “I’m phoning them and sending cards in the mail with messages of support and comfort and spiritual encouragement. Just checking in really goes a long way.”

For those with loved ones in a nursing home or senior living facility, consider reaching out to the activity or enrichment coordinator to see if they can help set up a video visit with your loved one or coordinate a card or message of love and concern to be delivered.

Celebrate Life in Other Ways

Families who’ve lost a loved one must now find a way to cope without being able to grieve the way they normally would, unable to travel to family or gather for a repast. While it might be limited in the number of people in physical attendance, funeral providers have begun offering streaming or video recording or offering to postpone services, holding loved ones in their care however long is necessary. Driving by the gravesite has also become a way to honor the loved one who has passed.

“We can’t have that gathering, and that’s a loss that everyone is experiencing,” says Swinson. “But these circumstances, as awful as they are, are shining a light on those things that we truly do value and find important.”

Show Yourself Compassion

Having compassion for your fears and anxieties is important. “Imagine a young child was coming to you with those emotions and feelings. You’re not going to dismiss them; you’re going to try to comfort them and soothe them. In the same way, with whatever we’re going through, we can offer ourselves compassion in little ways, through soothing self talk, a cup of tea or whatever it may be,” says Swinson. Small acts of kindness, whether directed to ourselves or others, have the ability to completely change a person’s day and perspective.

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