Losing Loved Ones In The Pandemic: Dealing With Delayed Grief

Grief was interrupted because of the pandemic; it was hard to mourn in person. Now that states are reopening, how do we address delayed grief?

Losing Loved Ones In The Pandemic: Dealing With Delayed Grief
Rosalie Castro

"I'm still grieving, and I think I'm going to grieve the rest of my life." 

Rosalie Castro lost her twin sister Rosary to COVID last year. "I didn't have any time to grieve the day my sister died," she says. 

Like most Americans, Castro didn't get the chance to say goodbye to her sister in person. And there wasn’t a funeral. 

Now that states are reopening, it's a reminder that, for some, life is continuing without loved ones as things are starting to get back to "normal."

"We all need to be more patient with each other because those of us, myself included, who lost somebody during the pandemic will need to find more unique ways, not the usual ways to deal with our grief," says grief expert Pauline Boss, author of "Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief." 

She adds the pandemic prevented so many from taking part in usual rituals of comfort like funerals, memorial services or in-person goodbyes. 

"The process has been interrupted by the virus, by the disease, by the isolation," says Boss.

Because of this, many are now dealing with unresolved or delayed grief.  

"Those who have had a loved one die, have had isolation on top of the normal isolation, we feel grief," says David Kessler, grief expert and author of "Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief." 

Kessler has been running online grief groups. 

"As things are beginning to open, many people are now planning those memorials that they weren't able to have," he says. 

 Grieving individuals are met with people saying, "It's been a year, why do it now?" But Kessler says, "grief must be witnessed."

"We want our loved ones' life and death to have mattered. When you hear of a delayed funeral — show up," he says. "Show up as if it just happened last week."

 He adds, "there's no timeline in grief—it's not too late to do it now."

 It wasn't until the first anniversary of Rosary's death in Los Angeles that Castro was able to celebrate her sister's life among friends and family.

Rosalie Castro: "My niece made this nice T-shirt with a picture of Rosary. ... It's a memory of my sister. So I wear that once a week at work because I want to let people know that this is my sister." 

Experts recommend that we shouldn't grieve alone. 

"Now that things are opening up," says Kessler, "we don't have to do it alone anymore. It is OK to ask for help."