Grieving without goodbye: Saskatchewan psychologist talks loss during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for some people to say goodbye in person to dying loved ones. Quinn Ohler/Global News

Grief starts with goodbye, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that impossible for some people to do in person.

Saskatoon psychologist Alexandra Froese said that makes an already painful process more difficult.

“It is heartbreaking to see your family member out there, not being able to reach out and show care and love in your regular ways,” Froese told Global News.

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

“There’s no simple solution to that, really, right now. We’re trying to all be resilient and creative.”

Finding closure can be challenging without an in-person farewell, she said, but there are other ways to say goodbye.

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She recommends sending a conversational video or letter.

“Just to show that you’re still with them [and] they’re not alone,” Froese said.

“You’re with them with your heart, with your mind and … extending your care in that way. It looks a little bit different, but it’s still care.”

Ritual is a big part of the grieving process, she said, noting funerals are still possible with the province’s 10-person limit on gatherings.

READ MORE: Coronavirus is changing how we hold funerals: ‘another layer of grief’

“While it’s unusual, there could be benefits for some people,” she said.

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“It can be just a bit more private. And for some people, that privacy and not having to take care of huge organization tasks, that actually could be a sense of relief.”

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People can continue to honour their late friends and family by listening to their favourite music, recalling fond memories, and talking about them, Froese said.

“When we begin to share, that gives others the permission to share as well,” she said. “It creates more openness and more connection.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.


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