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Grieving During a Pandemic


Yesterday, I received a call to inform me that my paternal grandmother died. She was my last living grandparent and we had been planning a big Caribbean bash for her 100th birthday this summer. The news stopped me in my tracks. I had just finished seeing a client via teletherapy, and had a whole day of clients left. I’m not often left without words, but I literally could not get words to form or come out of my mouth. So many thoughts swirled in my head. We have all already been adjusting to this time of COVID-19 and a loved one dying suddenly (presumably from complications related to the virus) was something I really did not want to experience.

Grief is not linear. It can be ever-present, but also seem buried deep down. I always assure my clients that there is no right way to grieve, but in the moment after the phone call I really hoped for some sort of guidebook directing me of what to do. There are so many more questions due to the pandemic: can we have a funeral, can we get to her, why did she have to die alone in a hospital bed? We wait for answers.

I also didn’t know what to do with my clients! Do I cancel? Do I tell them what is going on? I turned to my own support system to help, and they swooped in to help me make decisions while I processed. I reached out for help. Something I often encourage my clients to do. I let other people step in and take care of me. I acknowledged my numbness and found assurance that I did not have to be #blackgirlstrong or alone (whatever that means while #socialdistancing).

Although we are not together, my family and I are using technology to communicate with each other, cry together, laugh together, and support one another during this time. From Trinidad to DC to New York to California, we are staying connected.

Maybe grieving during a pandemic is just grieving. Period. There is no right or wrong way. What I am learning is to be patient with myself. Engage in self-compassion. Do what I feel is right for me at the moment. Reach out to others for support. Take a break when I need. Talk to my therapist. Take care of myself in the same ways I take care of my clients.

-Dr. B


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