Grief over pandemic

We are all participating in a global experiment. We are all experiencing the impact of the pandemic. Our responses to this will be varied depending upon how we are affected. There are no right or wrong responses but there are ways in which our decisions can help us or hinder us.


 Understanding our responses can be helpful in managing them. 

 We can compare our process to the Kubler-Ross (2014) theory of grief: 

  • denial
  • pain/guilt
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

Please note that the stages of grief do not have to be experienced in a linear form and we may go through one stage several times.

After hearing news of COVID-19 we may deny it is happening, for example, Boris Johnson on 3rd March 2020 saying, “I’m going to continue shaking peoples hands”.  We may avoid the evidence provided to us and be confused as to how this may affect us and others. We may not understand how this happened. We may experience shock and fear for ourselves, our family and others.

Pain is another response prompted by the outbreak. Feeling the pain of what the human race is going through, seeing or hearing the news and being upset by the number of deaths happening across the world. 

Once we see how the virus is negatively affecting other people’s lives we may feel guilty for surviving or living in a comfortable house with a garden when we know others don’t have that luxury. We may feel guilty for not being a key worker or not being able to help out.

Once we have more time and more information about the pandemic across the world and then closer to home, we may become angry. We may feel frustrated about our lack of control over the situation and want to blame others. We are more irritable and have anxious episodes which are out of our normal character. We may blame the government for not acting early enough to lock down the country or we may blame them for acting too quickly. The public has been angry at having to follow the advice and guidance and then angry at people who don’t follow the guidelines.

Anger can lead to bargaining, for example, we may say to ourselves if I eat healthily I won’t die. If we are religious we may make a promise to God we will pray daily and be a better person. We may think if I collect for the NHS I am a good person, therefore, I deserve to live.

The restrictions on our lives as a result of the government's responses to the pandemic may impact us. Depression may come as we realise what we have lost. We may have made plans to travel, celebrate occasions with family and friends. Our freedom of movement is limited and the comparison between what we had and now have, is less. Waking up and gradually becoming accustomed to the thought, “oh no I remember Coronavirus is here”. There may be a sense of bereavement similar to when we wake up after a loved one has died and remember they are no longer here.

We may reach acceptance when we realise what we can control and what we can’t; once we understand what we still have in life that can be enjoyed. Nature continues to thrive. We notice the little things around us, a rose that blooms, a bird living nearby singing his song, the sky seeming more blue, pollution reduced and people performing acts of kindness.

If any of these feelings are resonating with you it may be useful to speak to a counsellor. Sharing your feelings can help you feel more connected and supported in your journey through this situation.


Kübler-Ross E, Kessler D (2014). On grief & grieving : finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York: Scribner. ISBN 9781476775555. OCLC 863077888.

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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Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22
Written by Nicola Griffiths, Counsellor MBACP Social Worker DIPSW BAHons social studies
Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22

I have a private practice in Surrey working with trauma, childhood abuse, domestic violence, depression and anxiety. I have an interest in dissociative identity disorder. I was a children and families social worker and I worked with the leaving care team. Dip in therapeutic counselling, BA Hons in applied social studies, Dip in social work, NNEB.

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