A 'living bereavement' response to covid-19?

The response to COVID-19 arriving has been one of shock, amongst other things. It has really seemed like a living bereavement and has probably been one of the most anxious times for many of us in our lifetime.


Whilst I sit here in Surrey adhering to the Government’s request to stay at home I still cannot help but have a feeling of surrealness, because, right now, I don’t currently know anyone with COVID-19.

This week the sun has been shining and, until Monday evening, I had been able to venture to and from my office in Ripley (Surrey) where I run Harmonious Counselling, whilst keeping a check on my own health and asking my clients do the same. But then, the shock - and certainly a bit of anxiety - where I became far from ‘harmonious’.

Tuesday saw me going into work and emptying my office into the boot of my car to bring things home. There began the task of contacting clients, learning about digital GDPR compliant platform Zoom and beginning to contact existing clients to offer them as smooth a transgression as possible to the safe world of online counselling (if they wanted).

After a whirlwind couple of days I am today taking stock of exactly what has occurred and I really do liken what COVID-19 has done to the UK as a living bereavement.

The word bereavement means ‘to be robbed of something valued’ and I feel I am grieving my life as I knew it pre-Tuesday 24th March 2020.

Feelings of loss

As those that have experienced loss know, it is a process with varying stages:-

1. Shock – the reality of the loss.  This can take time to sink in and various feelings can be felt, i.e. disbelief, numbness, denial, panic, etc.  If the brain is flooded with feelings then thoughts and focus will be challenged too.

2. Protest – is COVID-19 for real?  At this point more intense unpleasant feelings can be felt such as anger, sadness, pining and there can be a struggle between denying (is this real?) and acceptance (it is and I need to get on). Having realised that we have all been seeing this for a while in China, yet is it really in England now? 

3. Disorganisation – reality begins to hit home. Here, it feels like our picture of the world as we know it has shattered into a million pieces; or as I said to a client ‘like a grenade has gone off’.  Here, there can be despair, confusion, anxiety, depression and, with the instructions to 'stay at home'; isolation.

4. Reorganisation – as the reality sinks in and we are able to take stock of what we need to do we start to re-build the picture / fragmented pieces slowing replacing them in our world view. What is known here is the world will never return to the way it was before; many bits will return to our worldview yet we will create a new world having experienced COVID-19. Here, can come very important hope as, slowly, we start to reconnect with more pleasant feelings such as joy, amazement and a sense of again belonging.

So what helps us get from one stage to another?

  • Accept what is happening.
  • Feel your feelings and know these will not be linear, i.e. you may feel annoyed, then sad, then annoyed, etc.
  • Talk to others about your feelings and thoughts; pick up the phone and use social media platforms, if safe to do so.
  • Take one moment at a time.
  • Be your own best buddy and give yourself a pat on the back rather than criticise yourself as you take each day as it comes.
  • If you have money worries then contact online organisations about them.
  • Begin a daily routine as if life was continuing; get dressed and, if you work, give yourself a ‘go to work’ mindset as you stay in the home.
  • If you are in a relationship; be independent during the day. coming together as you usually would in the evenings and weekend.
  • If you have children, give them structure too, whether this is school work, friend time via social media, gaming time and family time.
  • Connect with family and friends; we are social beings; most of us need social contact.

If you feel you need extra support, contact me, or a counsellor near you, as at this time many of us are currently offering online counselling to help people through these unsettling challenging times. 

And lastly, keep hold of hope.  We can beat this if we all pull together, keep safe and stay at home (if we can).

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Alfold GU6 & Horsham RH12
Written by Kate Heavey, Qualified in Individual + Couple Work, BA(Hons), BACP Accred
Alfold GU6 & Horsham RH12

Kate is a BACP accredited counsellor/psychotherapist with a private practice in Ripley (near Woking) and Alfold (near Horsham) Surrey.

Kate is a professional who works in a non-judgemental, respectful, honest and real way believing, whatever the issue, you have what you need within you to change your world.

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