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Grief Delayed is not Grief Denied, by Liz Dillman, Grief Recovery Method Specialist

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss.


A large number of people are suffering delayed grief from the pandemic. This grief is likely to continue after COVID is over.


Delayed grief, or unresolved or inhibited grief, refers to any reaction that occurs later than usual, as a delayed onset of symptoms. Postponing the reaction to the loss until a later time, even years later. This is your brain’s way of insulating you from the painful experience, so you can carry on.


This can occur if you are unable to process what has happened right after it occurs. It takes your brain a great deal of effort to keep your grief-related feelings from bubbling to the surface. When the delayed grieving process begins, your brain attempts to resolve these unfinished and unprocessed feelings. This reduces the energy directed towards keeping these emotions dampened.

 

People working in COVID-19 units in hospitals and nursing homes have not had time, or taken the time, to grieve the deaths of patients or residents. Many have suffered their own personal losses during the pandemic through the death of a family member or friend, pet, or the grief from having to isolate from family. Some will have experienced COVID themselves, affecting their ability to continue working.


Others are busy trying to keep a roof over their head or food on the table after a layoff during COVID. They have not allowed themselves to grieve a death of a family member or friend.

 

Concerned that if they start to grieve, they may not be able to stop, people postpone the grieving process until things return to ‘normal.’

 

Our inability to have visitation, funerals or celebrations of life has hindered people’s ability to grieve. COVID robbed us of these familiar and comforting rituals. It distanced the physical and emotional support of family and friends, to the point we may choose to ignore our grief rather than face it alone.
 

Unfortunately, the delayed grief is likely to surface and resurface at times you do not expect it to or don’t want it to.


 

When this happens there are several things you can choose to do.

 

1. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.


2. Express your feelings and emotions through writing, drawing or music.


3. Talk to friends and family.


4. Talk to a counsellor at some point in the grief process. This is important if you are finding it hard to process the pain on your own a few months or even years after a death.


5. Look into a Grief Recovery Program or grief support group for help to recover from your grief.

 

There is no right way to grieve or a wrong way, there is only your way.

 

As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one, you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

 

At Huron Shores Hospice we have three certified Grief Recovery Method Specialists ready to help you recover from your grief. To learn more please email grief@huronshoreshospice.ca or call Cathy at 519-385-5683. One-on-one sessions are currently offered online or in-person, following all COVID protocols.