The number one fear people have during COVID-19 is losing someone they love. The number two fear is getting sick yourself. We talk to Dr. Christine Korol about both those fears, and how to approach them.Christine Korol quick chat the fear of losing someone
I know a lot of us are feeling this right now, the fear of losing someone close to us. Yesterday my neighbour stopped by, and we stayed far apart in the driveway and had glasses of wine (each from our own house) while she told us her grandmother had just died in Germany. And we couldn’t hug her, and we couldn’t comfort her the way we normally would. It all had to be done from a distance.
It’s just so brutal, what’s going to happen. I’ve heard some predictions that everyone’s going to know at least one person who died from COVID-19. And that’s if it goes well – we’re all going to know at least one person, if each person knows about 300 people. And it’s not that big a stretch to imagine that.
So it’s no funerals, no touching, no comforting, no hugging. It’s going to be very hard to help people process all of this. Therapists need to make sure that they take care of themselves, and that they have people to talk to and process this information. It’s a good time for therapists to brush up on grief therapy, and to be comfortable having those conversations with people about the loss of their loved one. There’s a lot of education about the ‘trajectory of loss’, about how long the raw pain lasts, what causes a complicated grief, and how to help people if there is a complicated grief.
There is going to be a lot of loss and trauma coming up. How we can help people with that is really knowing how to talk about loss and grief. And then for some people if they’re at higher risk, and they think they might lose that person, if they’re worried about an elderly relative for example, encouraging them to talk to that relative now. To make the most of the time we have here.
What can help reduce anxiety around death and loss is to actually talk about a death plan. Find out what your family members want – and we should actually be doing this anyway – but it does reduce anxiety if we can be open with them and talk to people about death. For the people who have been coming to me worried about grandparents or people with immune disorders or pre-existing conditions, I’ve been encouraging them to openly talk about death with their parents or grandparents and say “are you worried about this, is there anything I can do?”
It’s often a relief for people when you can talk about death. I think that would be an important part of public education as well, that we really don’t talk about death. You know, 100 years ago people used to wear black for a year to signify they were in mourning, and the community would rally around them. People had wakes in their homes, and would die at home, and so there was a greater comfort with death. There was still the pain of death, and people understood that people in mourning needed support, but we really need to understand that death can happen at any time and so we need to have those conversations with people.
It’s not morbid, it’s the reality of our situation. Maybe we can have those conversations and not leave our at-risk family members worrying and pretending that everything is okay. They can have these conversations and that will reduce their anxiety.