Many must deal with grief amid the pandemic

By Barbara Gutierrez

Many must deal with grief amid the pandemic

By Barbara Gutierrez
Recognizing the five stages of grief will help us get through this uncertain time.

The athlete misses their teammates and the fans.

The singer misses the live audience.

The grandmother misses the warm hugs from her grandchild.

For many in this age of COVID-19, mourning has become a way of life. Common routines have come to a halt, and we are not sure when and if it will all return, experts say. Some psychologists are seeing signs of sadness in their patients or clients.

That sadness can be construed as grief.

Nicole Ann Mavrides, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and director of Child and Adolescent Clinics, said that she is noticing various expressions of grief in many of her clients.

“They are feeling grief from missing their own family and the social connection that they are used to,” said Mavrides. “Kids cannot see their grandparents or their friends​ so that social connection is missing.”

She added that any time personal habits are disrupted, and personal freedoms are limited there is bound to be sadness. In addition, the social separation that is required to keep the virus away adds an extra stressor that can lead many to feel sad.

“It is a scary time,” she remarked. But like in any period of loss, people should be aware that grieving is a long process, and many will go through some of the five stages of grief. Introduced by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, in her book “On Death and Dying,” the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

But experts warn that grieving is not a linear process, so not everyone experiences the same emotions. But many may feel one or several of the stages.    

“We have certainly seen anger,” said Mavrides. “There are a lot of people who are angry and upset. And, we continue to see denial in all those people who are not accepting the fact that they have to stay indoors.

She warns that the quicker people work through their issues and get to acceptance, the better they will be. 

Rene Monteagudo counsels graduate and undergraduate students as director of the University’s Counseling Center. All the sessions are conducted virtually through the TeleHealth system. He has noticed a certain sadness in many of his patients. 

“We know that there is an end day to this pandemic, but we don’t know when that will be,” he said. “That is driving a lot of anxiety and fear.”

According to Monteagudo, that fear has fueled anger in some students toward groups that are making decisions for all of us: the government, health officials, and local politicians. Other students are worried about their grades, while others live in conditions that are not conducive to learning.

“Athletes have a very strict routine and are close to one another,” he said. “Now that they are dispersed, they don’t have that. Anyone who is part of a group, whether it is cultural or religious, they are all missing and grieving that loss.”

There are ways to make the grieving process easier, Monteagudo said. He recommended establishing a daily routine. Get dressed every day as if going to class or work, remain active through exercise, and virtually stay connected to friends and family.

All these routines establish meaning and purpose, he explained.

“The most important thing is to manage and lower your stress level because high levels of stress affect the immune system,” Monteagudo said. And, a healthy immune system is crucial to fight any virus or bacteria.

Monteagudo said that many students are practicing meditation and listening to soothing music to relax. “They must do whatever it takes to lower their stress level,” he added.