Pro Bono Counseling Project (PBCP) recently held a continuing education workshop entitled “Grief and Loss in the Time of COVID.” Joseph Anastasio, MS, LCSW, explored the themes of grief and loss and how they have been magnified throughout the current pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic became a significant stressor in many people’s lives over the past two years.  It provided many with a great deal of grief and isolation, leading people to struggle with mental health issues more than ever before.  While grief, loss, and loneliness have always affected mental health, the pandemic has exacerbated that even further.  COVID led to a significant uptick in psychological distress due to trauma, grief, and loss.  Additional trauma may have been caused by political division, racial unrest, and the stress and isolation of doing almost everything remotely.

Many different battles and losses have unveiled themselves throughout the pandemic.  Along with battling the loss of loved ones, unemployment, or a decline in available support services, many have also faced internal battles, such as loss of identity, confidence, or joy. These simultaneous losses can delay a person’s ability to heal and recover, and may be intensified due to the constant isolation and loss of social connection over the past two years.  Lack of social connection has been determined to be a greater health factor than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.  Isolation is a loss of its own, which has greatly affected many people’s emotions and overall health.  The COVID-19 pandemic allowed many to undergo numerous kinds of losses, causing an increase in depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.

Everyone deals with grief differently, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Grief is not linear and does not work on a schedule.  The seven stages of grief (which are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance) may all occur very differently to each person experiencing a loss or dealing with trauma.  It is common to return to previous stages of grief or be triggered by certain things, such as a song or personal object.  Weakness is also very common while grieving and should be expected.  Grief counselors encourage patients to release their emotions and speak about their experiences in order to help them cope.

Grieving, along with many of the effects from the pandemic, may be improved by self-care.  Exercises, reading, laughing, meditating, and sleeping are only some of many forms of self-care that have helped people cope during their hardest times.  As the pandemic continues, more opportunities for self-care and rediscovery are becoming available, and should be taken advantage of when possible.  Self-care and seeking help can provide coping mechanisms and alter the grieving process.

It is important to recognize that self-care alone may not be enough, and sometimes seeking help is necessary. If you are feeling overwhelmed with depression, anxiety, grief or loss, Pro Bono Counseling is your mental health connection. The mental health WARMLine, staffed with trained mental health professionals, is available daily to speak to someone about how you are feeling. The WARMLine can be reached at 410.598.0234. And if you are interested in counseling, PBCP will connect you with a volunteer mental health clinician at no cost to you. Contact PBCP at 410.825.1001 for more information.

Since its founding in 1991, the Pro Bono Counseling Project (PBCP), a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, has helped over 30,000 individuals and families throughout Maryland connect with volunteer counselors and obtain the mental health care they could not otherwise afford. Presently, PBCP has over 850 volunteer clinicians all over the state of Maryland who give over 8,500 hours of their time each year.

If you’d like to support PBCP, please click here to make an online, tax-deductible gift.