How to support someone who’s lost a loved one during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in profound and unprecedented ways. Most if not all of us are worried about someone we love—whether it’s a relative, a friend, or our community as a whole.
In the face of this crisis, it’s important to remember that even the smallest acts of care can make a difference. We’ve compiled the tips and resources below to help you find simple, concrete ways to take action.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, the experience of losing a loved one to this disease is sadly becoming more and more common. The pandemic has also made loss even harder to process — individuals may feel that their grief is overshadowed by the larger global narrative, and in-person funerals have been cancelled or postponed due to physical distancing guidelines.
If someone close to you is grieving a recent loss, the first and most important thing you can do is reach out and let them know you’ll be there for them no matter what. Instead of just offering to “do anything” or “talk anytime,” take a specific action to help them cope, such as ordering their groceries or texting them daily even if they don’t always respond.
Honor your friend’s personal experience by asking questions about their loved one, what they’re thinking and feeling, and how you can help. Don’t assume that you know what they’re going through, or that the coping strategies someone else has used will work for them. Instead, tell them you trust them and will support them in doing whatever feels right.
If your friend wants to hold a virtual memorial or arrange another type of remote tribute, offer to help with the planning and coordination. Although there’s no way to replace a traditional in-person gathering, even something simple and informal — such as sharing stories and photos on a video call — can be meaningful and healing right now. You can also encourage your friend to journal or write letters to their loved one, which may help them process their grief.
Here are some additional resources to help you support someone who’s lost a loved one:
- Joe Primo on Supporting Grieving Children (Option B): The CEO of Good Grief—and a former hospice chaplain—shares strategies to help children cope with the death of a loved one and make sense of tragedy.
- Being There: What to Say and Do in the Aftermath of Loss (Option B): This guide provides specific ways to help a grieving friend based on insights from members of the Dinner Party, a community focused on life after loss.
- Julia Samuel on Changing How We Think About Grief (Option B): The UK’s leading grief expert discusses why we fear grief and pain—and shares ideas for how we can talk about them more openly.
- COVID-19 Resources and Updates (Good Grief): Resources and support for children, families, students, and communities navigating new life circumstances.
- Ways to Support Someone Who Is Grieving (Harvard Health Publishing): Specific suggestions for talking about grief and taking concrete steps to help.
- How to Help a Grieving Friend (Refuge in Grief): Do’s and don’ts presented in a simple infographic format.
- Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort and Closure During an Outbreak (NPR): Lessons from the Ebola epidemic that may help people grieving loved ones during COVID-19.
- Grief and Fear After a COVID-19 Death: Managing a Double Trauma (CNN): Tips on staying connected and honoring a loved one’s life when you can’t hold an in-person memorial.
- How to Cope with Bereavement During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Psychology Today): Recommended coping strategies, including practicing self-compassion and alternating between “loss” and “restorative” activities.
- Grief and COVID-19: Saying Goodbye in the Age of Physical Distancing (American Psychological Association): Insights from psychology that help to explain why grieving is so hard right now.
- COVID-19 Bereavement: Advice If You Are Caring for Someone Bereaved (Sudden): Specific tips for being there for someone via phone, video call, or text messaging, along with signs that they may need professional support.