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  • Writer's pictureJade Langridge

Grief responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

As we pass a year since the first lockdown and every single person's world got a major interruption and was shaken up in one way or another, I thought I would explain my take on our shared grief response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Our grief response can kick in over any loss, not just a death, especially unexpected and we can all agree COVID-19 and all the losses it has contributed towards, was unexpected. Whether that be loss of a loved one, loss of a job or loss of freedom from doing the social activities you took for granted

As well as going through it myself and witnessing friends’ and family’s responses, I have also been working as a counsellor at Leeds Teaching Hospital. This involved some infertility work but has been mainly as a staff counsellor for a range of roles throughout the Trust. I will not be sharing any personal staff stories of course but I will be sharing common themes and narratives that have been coming up.

I share with the aim that it may help some of you, I can’t take any of your pain away or give back anything you may have lost but it can help to know you are not alone. To identify some of the feelings you have had/ have, and know they will pass. That if they are not passing or you are struggling, there is help and support for you.

I have worked with many clients over the years who are grieving. I have stepped into their inner world at different stages and witnessed couples being at different stages. I have been through the sudden unexpected death of one of my closest dearest friends. I feel this gives me quite a good insight into the grief process. The number one insight - that it is different for everyone, however there are more common reactions that most people can relate to at some point in their grief response journey.

Shock / Denial

“This won’t happen to us, to me. It’s not real, it’s made up - said most of the UK early 2020. Our brain is trying to protect us from the intense overwhelm, so we are plunged into this numb feeling or disbelief. It is like, (on an unconscious level) if we don’t believe it, we don’t have to properly deal with it.


Pleading with God / the Universe / yourself, hoping to find some way you still feel a sense of control.

Many I know joined the mass meditations in April 2020 - now I do believe these helped the Earth in some way, raising the vibration - Schuman’s frequency showed a massive increase, however it did not stop COVID-19.

Another example, “A two week lock down - we can do this, then get back to normal” (March 2020).


Feeling sad for the pain of others or for what you are going through yourself, hearing so many stories of loss. Loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of contact with loved ones. Staff at the hospital were reporting more loss than ever experienced before. They were feeling very sad and overwhelmed.

An overwhelm of personal and collective sadness as the numbers kept going up and the restrictions kept increasing too. Crying is one of the ways in which the body releases emotion (energy in motion).


Lack of motivation, no energy. Feeling like, what is the point? A heaviness, in the body and mind. Feeling stuck. Hopeless. Lost mojo, lost spark. Some apathy mixed in here too, “Well I can do that tomorrow, or at weekend or next weekend.” With no usual social plans to help organise other life admin to do’s , it is easy to slide into “Meh, I’ll do that later.”

I noticed the darker months really increased this feeling for people, me included. I went through about 6 weeks really struggling to do anything more than what I needed to do for my paid work and basic self care. There was a period between the second postponement of my wedding, cancelling my hen do for a second time and no new date, knowing my honeymoon in May was very likely to be moved and hadn’t seen any friends or family in ages.

Plus, as a sensitive soul, I pick up on the collective energy a lot, it felt like such heaviness in my body. Nothing to look forward to really and so much uncertainty.

Christmas was very triggering for a lot of people I spoke to. Whether you did see anyone on Christmas day or not, there were a lot of difficult decisions being made, and longing for that familiarity and soul recharge that the season usually brings (for many not all).

For many NHS staff, the relentlessness was building and many felt so tired and drained, with no light at the end of the tunnel.


Not being able to be there with your dying loved one (even though it is not your choice).

Perhaps you’ve been one of the lucky ones who didn't get ill or whose job meant you kept getting paid, feeling guilty for this.

From counselling a range of staff roles in the NHS, there has been guilt from those not on the frontline, ones at home having to shield. Guilt from the ones on the front line, “Wish I could have done more, saved more.”

Were you a hoarder of food or loo roll? Perhaps feeling guilt over this. What really happened is, your threat mode in your brain kicked in and your rational self went quiet, your brain went into protection mode. It happened to a lot of people unfortunately, but we were all thrown into an intensely high pressurised anxiety provoking scary situation - so blame or being judgemental here is of no use.


Ooh I have heard this a lot. So much anger and no one person to really put it on, which felt even more frustrating!

Anger at how information was communicated, anger at hypocrisy, inconsistency (whether from government or your manager) anger at all the restrictions. Anger at the Universe / God - why was my loved one taken?

I’ve had several staff members who had to shield for health reasons tell me they felt they were being punished for a crime they had not done.

Anger at friends or family members who you felt were not taking the rules serious enough or perhaps too seriously.

Loss of power and control. If you were someone who thrived on being organised and planning , having everything thrown up in the air has been a really difficult lesson in patience and adapting to life's flow.

Suddenly can’t even have a coffee or Earl Grey (my fave) with your bestie or a hug from your mum. No more sweaty nights out surrounded by the collective energy of love and dancing and chatting waffle to whoever will listen with live music.

Acceptance - new plan, move on (Finding meaning after loss and integration)

This stage has never meant you are ok with what has happened, as in you agree it was fine, no big deal.

Acceptance means: you have processed the range of information and emotions and are now at a place where you accept this is what has happened and I am ok with where I am now. I am going to consciously make the decision to do the best I can even with “The Loss”. Wearing masks for example, you may not like it but you accept this is the situation now so you get on with your business, mask on.

Finding a way to integrate what you have been through and learnt into your life. What are your new priorities now? Have your values changed? What do you want to make happen?

Now of course as with grief over the loss of a loved one, these stages are not linear (oh if only!) It does not go from one stage to the next until you make it to acceptance and get to stay there with a new smile on your face.

It is more like an oscillating energy wave that we flow in and out of, over time it may feel less of that initial raw intensity but there will be triggers for going back into a phase.

Some factors that affect capacity to grieve, process and move on:

  • Isolation / lack of support

  • Not feeling your feelings are valid, especially if echoed back to you from loved one (“it could be worse at least your still being paid, discounting the loss of social connection )

  • Previous unresolved losses or life crises

  • Social and economic pressures

So what helps this grieving process you ask. The old cliché but time really does help, little baby steps each day to rebuilding your life around the loss. What can you do, in your circle of influence to help you? This may look like self care, whether that be meditation or getting a cv out, not all self care is candles and bath time.

A big one is reaching out to talk to someone, whether a friend or family or if you prefer a professional (like me) who is removed from your personal life and can help in a more objective way, in a supportive safe space.

I have come across many models explaining grief over the years and it could be argued I’ve missed sections out. Like I said, different for everyone. If you are interested in learning more I am including some that have made the most sense to me that you can look up to learn more if you wish:

  • Kubler-Ross change curve -

  • Dual process model by Stoebe &Schut 1999, identifies the oscillation between the loss and the restoration.

  • Wei Chei Chart, which I came across at Relate helping couples through different changes and loss.

Sending love and strength as you go through your own grief response to whatever you have lost during this pandemic. xJx


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