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We have seen the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 decline within the past week, giving the state a glimpse of hope that this pandemic is stabilizing. However, the havoc that this pandemic has left behind is undeniable. In one way or another, all of us have experienced loss in some form, whether loss of a job, routine or even a sense of security. Many of us have unfortunately lost colleagues, loved ones, friends, and acquaintances to this virus.

Despite the signs of hope, it is not surprising that many of us remain with lingering feelings, including anger, sadness, confusion, yearning and grief. Perhaps we may behave differently to feel close to those who passed. It may feel like we are very different people, but grief is natural; it is the way our whole mind and body reacts to losing someone important to us. Since every close relationship is different, we all experience grief differently.  

At times like this, COVID-19 has prevented us from maintaining our normal grieving processes. Many rites and rituals, such as funerals and wakes, cannot occur as they do in non-outbreak time. Losses associated with COVID-19 are complicated by physical distancing protocols such as limiting large gatherings, difficulty travelling to services, and the possibility of not being able to be with loved ones who are quarantined or in isolation. We may be left feeling angry or guilty.

However it’s important to remember that we can still connect with each other while practicing physical distancing. It is common to want to isolate yourself while grieving but it is important to stay connected to friends and family in any way possible. Check in with loved ones by calling, texting or via video chat or social media or by holding virtual group remembrances or memorials.

Some people may also be experiencing grief without necessarily losing a loved one. Most of us have lost the sense of certainty, safety, and predictability that ultimately leaves us feeling dislocated and unsure about what’s going to happen next. We may feel grief with the loss of anything we’re attached to deeply, such as the loss of economic stability, the loss of our ability to move around freely, the ability to participate in life’s milestones in person.

What Can I Do If I am Facing Grief?

Grief is natural, and fortunately most people are resilient

Some tips suggested by psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb from the New York Times include:

  • Acknowledging the grief: Rather than discouraging feelings of sadness, the more we can say to ourselves and the people around us, “Yes, these are meaningful losses,” the more seen and soothed we will feel. We tend to mistake feeling less for feeling better, but it helps to remember that the feelings are still there.
  • Stay in the present: With COVID-19 there’s the uncertainty about how long this will last and what will happen next that leaves us mourning our current losses as well as ones we haven’t experienced yet. Therefore, it’s important for us to stay grounded in the present by embracing the safe moment we may be experiencing while at home, reading a book for example.
  • Let people experience loss their own way: Everyone moves through loss in a unique way, so it’s important to let people do their grieving in whatever way works for them without diminishing their losses or pressuring them to grieve the way you are.

While most people are resilient to the changes during this COVID-19 pandemic, some may need professional support in their recovery. The following is a list of resources to obtain professional help

  • AMPHS Mental Health Services are currently being provided remotely. You may call us at 212-256-9036.
  • If you are unsure about where to turn for professional help, NYC Well can provide support and referrals for those experiencing grief and loss. Visit nyc.gov/nycwell or call 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355). 
  • Call the New York State COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline at 844-863-9314 to speak with specially trained volunteer professionals who are there to listen, support and refer if needed. They are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, provides immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
    • Or, text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

How Can I Support Someone in Grief?

For individuals who are wondering how to help somebody that has experienced a loss of a loved one during this pandemic, checking in by calling, texting, emailing or via video chat or social media is crucial. Even if the person doesn’t respond, they will know you are there to support them. You can also take action without being asked. Often when people are in the middle of a crisis don’t know what to ask for. Be creative in terms of what you can do for people. For example, if you are not sick and do not have any symptoms, drop off food or groceries while maintaining a safe distance, send a care package or shop online to send items.

Because the coronavirus has made difficult processes more difficult than they previously were, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) will provide financial assistance to individuals in need of assistance to meet funeral expenses. Low-income New York City residents may be eligible for up to $900 in financial assistance to meet funeral expenses for a deceased low income New York City resident family member or friend.

  • To be eligible the deceased and next-of-kin applying must have a social security number
  • The individual who makes the funeral arrangements must file an application within 60  days from the date of the decedent’s death with the Office of Burial Services by mail, in-person at 33-28 Northern Blvd., 3rd Flr., Long Island City, NY 11101, by email at BurialServices@hra.nyc.gov, or by fax at 917-639-0476.
  • For additional information you can reach the HRA at 718-473-8310.
  • For additional details you can also visit their website

AMPHS is here to support you! If you need resources to help you in these difficult times, please feel free to reach out to us at (212) 256-9036.