Grief in the time of COVID-19

Prepared by Susan Cadell

Grief is a normal and natural response in this time. Grief is a response to loss that affects our physical, emotional, behavioural, social, financial, and spiritual lives. It does not only occur in response to death; any loss can cause us to grieve.

So much is being lost in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. We have lost our routines and many freedoms. Many people have lost their jobs. We have lost the ability to visit freely with one another and, in some cases, to go outside our homes. And some people have lost their lives while others have lost the opportunity to be with people who are dying or grieving.

This piece is a collective effort by an international group of scholars and practitioners in the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement. Grief literacy provides a way forward. Grief literacy calls on all of us to be better acquainted with grief so that we can support ourselves and one another. We define grief literacy as the capacity to access, process, and use knowledge regarding the experience of loss. This is a capacity we all need in the midst of this pandemic.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, we may feel grief at not being able to be at the bedside of someone who is dying. We may also feel grief because we cannot engage in familiar rituals when someone dies. We may not be able to hold or attend funerals. Feelings of grief may be exacerbated by social isolation. If someone died before the pandemic occurred, the person who is now grieving may no longer have access to their community.


This piece addresses what can we do in the time of COVID-19 to be more grief literate and support one another.

There are many examples, predating this pandemic, of people honouring the memory of someone by creating scholarships, getting memorial tattoos, creating art, and writing. There are also many examples of positive movements in response to this pandemic. Now, with our limited ability to be together in person, is a good time to be creative in how we remember those who have died and provide support for those who grieve them. One of the lasting legacies of this pandemic can be an increased ability to support one another in our grief.


Link to full article: