Coping with the loss of a loved one

Published: Jun 03, 2020
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Losing someone close to you is always hard, whatever the cause. If you have lost a loved one to Covid-19 or to a complication related to dementia, you are going through extraordinary circumstances.

It is possible that you may not have had the time and opportunity to spend as much time with the person as you might have desired, due to pandemic-related restrictions pertaining to visits and assisting with care. That must have been extremely stressful for you and your loved one at that time.

Usually family caregivers involved in the care of persons living with dementia get time to say their goodbyes. However, if the person had Covid-19 infection and was isolated, they may not have had enough time to say their goodbyes.

You might also have misgivings about not bringing the person home when the pandemic began, which may have protected them for some time. Such ‘what if’ thoughts only pull you down with guilt, and would not help you cope with your current situation.

Yet another challenge is coping with the sudden emptiness in your life. Days would seem longer and nights never-ending, since you are having sleep issues. We have heard caregivers say that previously their whole word revolved around the care of the person. Now, with the person gone, they experience a big void or emptiness that seems to be enveloping them.

For caregivers who have been caring for their loved one with dementia, the grieving process likely began from the time of diagnosis. Some caregivers feel that the long-drawn out grieving process has sucked their feelings dry, so that they are numb to experience any emotion. The apathy and indifference one feels in those circumstances could be overwhelming.

It is only natural to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. It does not happen in stages, and it is experienced in different ways, at different times. Depression, frustration, sadness, indifference, irritability, denial, anger, acceptance are all manifestations of grief. It is important to know that there is no prescribed duration for grief and it might strike you at the most unexpected times. You have to give as much time as it takes your spirit to heal.

Here are some steps you can take to help you cope with your loss.

  • The first step is to understand your feelings and emotions, understand that it is natural and normal to feel that way and accept them.
  • Do not criticize yourself for how you feel. When you lose a family member or friend to COVID-19, you may experience a range of emotions ,as mentioned earlier. You may also have difficulty sleeping or experience low levels of energy. All these feelings are normal and there is no right or wrong way to feel grief.
  • Allow yourself time to process your emotions in response to your loss. You may think that the sadness and pain that you feel will never go away, but in most cases, these feelings lessen over time.
  • Talk regularly with people that you trust about your feelings.
  • Keep to your routines as much as you feel able and try to focus on activities that bring you joy.
  • Seek advice and comfort from people that you trust (e.g. religious/faith leaders, mental health workers or other trusted members of your community) while maintaining physical distance (e.g. attending virtual mass).
  • Think of alternative ways to say goodbye to the person who passed away such as writing a letter or dedicating a drawing to your loved one. These are small actions that can help you cope with grief and loss, particularly in situations where funeral services are not permitted.

Last, but not the least, call the Alzheimer Society of Calgary and ask to speak to our social workers. They understand your situation, and can provide the support you need at this time. They can connect you to community resources for additional support and or assistance. The relationship they have established with you is enduring, does not end when your loved one is gone, and let that thought not deter you from calling us.

Article written by Padmaja Genesh, Alzheimer Society of Calgary Learning Specialist.