When You Have to Grieve in Isolation

These are agonizing days of loss upon loss — and the death of a loved one (whether to COVID-19 or another cause) can feel like an overwhelming blow. In large part, what can make that loss especially painful is that we must sorrow in isolation.

What’s needed for healthy grieving hasn’t changed, but how we grieve looks different. And it hurts. Many of us are physically alone, and we may also feel emotionally alone.

But God is still with us. He is near to us in our grief, and He’ll help us walk through this season.

How to grieve well, even in isolation

  • Voice your grief. Those who aren’t grieving your direct loss might feel reluctant or uncertain about reaching out because they don’t know what to say or do. But for their sake as much as yours, ask them to walk alongside you.
  • Purposefully make grief a priority. Step away from work duties for a day or two if you can. Find your ratio of doing (handling responsibilities that don’t go away) to feeling (making time to sit with your tears and focuson your grief).
  • Be gentle with yourself. Grief leads to other emotions, and they’re all part of honestly handling sorrow. Pay attention to any anger and depression, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Choose to remember. Pull out letters and videos. Invite others to join you for an online memorial service and to share their memories of your loved one. Create your own goodbye rituals.

And remember this truth: It’s not that your loved one is living or dead, it’s that they lived and they died. When you acknowledge both, you’re accepting the reality of their death and the impact of their life. You can grieve your loss but honor what remains — what you will always have.

It’s not easy, to say the least. “When a loved one dies, you focus on what you lose,” writes H. Norman Wright. “You feel the loss of a loved one’s presence most acutely in your daily life. Every moment you’re aware of the absence.”

But you haven’t lost the years you lived with him or her; you have the past. … Your loved one’s death does not cancel his or her life or your history together. … Your life was shaped by who this person was; who he or she was can move you, strengthen your values and make a difference in your world.

You can trust God with your grief

There’s no getting around the burden of mourning — even in isolation. So let yourself cry out to God. Your sorrow is sacred, and you can trust Him to sustain you.

For a closer look at the complexities of grief, we encourage you to read H. Norman Wright’s book Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member. Wright is a licensed therapist who’s well acquainted with loss. You can also listen to Focus on the Family’s broadcast with him: “Dealing With Grief & Loss During Coronavirus.”