Coping with grief and loss during COVID-19

By Lou Parrott, MD, PhD, and Sagar Makanji, PharmD

Think back to New Year’s Eve, Tuesday, December 31, 2019. Maybe you had big plans that night to ring in the new year, or maybe you were spending a quiet evening at home. In either case, you probably had expectations about 2020 and hopes that it would be happy, healthy and prosperous…

Fast forward a couple months to February, 2020 when we began hearing more about a new coronavirus, COVID-19, originating from Wuhan, China that had made its way into the United States and was beginning to spread.

Changes caused by COVID-19

We started to see our world and our lives drastically change, experiencing loss and grief in several forms. For many of us, there were no more commutes to work, as we began to work from home if we were lucky enough to keep our job. There was no more getting the kids off to the bus stop or waiting in the drop-off line, as schools closed and switched to a virtual learning environment.

Parents lost the luxury of being able to fully concentrate on their jobs, as they were forced to take on the roles of teacher or daycare worker and daytime entertainer for their kids. Kids missed out on receiving the first-class education they depended on to feel prepared for the next school year or even college.

Healthcare workers risked their lives and those of their family to care for the people who were getting sick from COVID-19, worried they had been infected and wanted to get tested, or needed regular healthcare. Essential workers in grocery stores, post offices, public transportation, and other industries also became heroes as they continued to come to work to keep the country running, despite fearing for their own health and lives.

And there wasn’t a roll of toilet paper or paper towels to be found.

Social isolation

Across the board, we didn’t get to spend precious in-person time with our extended family and friends because we were doing our part to bend the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19. We didn’t get to go to the gym and may have fallen behind in our physical fitness. Our kids didn’t get to participate in their beloved sporting or other extracurricular events. Medical procedures were cancelled. Vacations were cancelled. Weddings were cancelled. Graduations were cancelled. Everything was cancelled.

Our dreams and plans were put on hold.

COVID-19 mental health toll

We certainly couldn’t have imagined this would be how the year would start off and end. Spring, summer, fall and winter, and all that comes with each, did not happen the way we have all become accustomed to for our entire lives.

And while we have done our best to adapt, the grief and loss of loved ones, financial security and social normality we have experienced over the past year has taken its toll on our mental health.

Where to go from here

We encourage you to watch a recording of our webinar “Coping with grief and loss during COVID-19” with Paula Hensley, MD, Magellan Healthcare senior medical director; Sagar Makanji, PharmD, Magellan Rx vice president, clinical strategy and programs; and Mark Santilli, PharmD, Magellan Rx senior director, clinical strategy and programs, as they share knowledge and tips for persevering after grief and loss due to COVID-19 and answer audience questions.

For additional COVID-19 resources from Magellan Health, click here.

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