Question:   My cousin passed away from COVID-19 in another state. We cannot go and visit the family or even have a funeral for him right now. What advice do you have on how to handle the grieving process?

I am very sorry to hear about your loss. Grief can be complicated and is unique to each person. The current COVD-19 pandemic has made it made even more complex because our usual process of grieving may need to be changed due of the stay at home orders.

The pain of losing someone you care about can feel overwhelming. Often there may be feelings of guilt. This can be exacerbated now as you probably were not able to visit your cousin or possibly even share your feelings with him before he passed away. This lack of closure with your loved one can lead to a complicated grieving process. These feelings are similar for people whose loved ones pass away from causes other than the COVID-19 virus, as well, because chances are, they also may have been isolated during the end of life phase.

During this pandemic hospitals and nursing homes are not allowing visitors. Some people can video conference their loved one to share their goodbyes. While this is helpful and can provide much comfort, it is not the same as having the opportunity to be with the person, to hold a hand, and give an embrace.

 Most of the rituals we participate in after a loved one passes away are halted or changed now. Families cannot travel to be together or gather to share their memories and grief. Funerals must be kept small or postponed until a day when the stay at home orders are lifted. This may cause feelings of unfinished grieving, without a sense of closure that the ritual of a funeral provides.

Its also important to recognize that any feelings of grief may be worsened because of the news all around us. It is already a time when there are feelings of sadness over the pandemic and the way our lives have had to change.

This is a time to be gentle on yourself and not rush the process or worry that your feelings are not normal. You may worry your grief is too strong, or that it is not strong enough. You may feel disconnected from your grief because you are not able to travel and attend a funeral at this time. All feelings are valid and should be respected. Your emotions may feel different than past losses because of the unusual circumstances around the pandemic.

Make sure to take care of yourself. This should include exercising, getting fresh air, enjoying good nutrition, and reaching out to others.

Stay connected to family and friends who can support you during this time. Allow yourself to reminisce about your loved one. Share stories with others who knew your cousin.

You may want to honor his memory is a new way. Try doing an activity that reminds you of him like watching a movie he enjoyed or cooking his favorite recipe. Share something on his online memorial wall if there is one, so that you are connecting with the community that knew him. Make a charitable donation in his name.

There are many ways we can remember our loved ones and carry on their legacy in our own lives or in our community.

Grief is an emotional response felt because of the love that you had for your cousin. Cherish your memories, and take comfort in them.

Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at

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