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The Unresolved Grief of the Bereaved Families

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

In the current public health crisis amidst Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people have died all over the world leaving behind their families with sudden and ambiguous loss. Further worsening the loss and pain is the unresolved grief due to the restrictions.

Universally, funerals have been an integral part of biding adieu to the deceased loved ones. While funerals mean celebrating and commemorating the dead within the community, they also help the bereaved to cope with loss and provide a potential closure. Amidst Covid-19 pandemic, the families and communities are experiencing an inability to embrace the pain of loss through rituals like funerals, which is resulting in the feelings of helplessness. While the bereaved seek comfort from friends and family, in the given restrictions and physical distancing requirements there is limited social support.

There is a need to support the bereaved families, especially children and adolescents to ensure healthy coping. Some of the ways in which it has been practicing are:

1. Remote rituals: Virtual funerals services have been adopted in different parts of the world to facilitate grieving of the bereaved families. Live streaming of the event and the ability to commemorate the dead helps the families and communities to have a potential closure.

2. Counselling services: The local city councils of some countries have set up free virtual counselling services for the victim’s family to deal with the loss. Toll free helplines have also been setup to encourage reaching out to the experts who can then ensure healthy strategies to grieve.

3. Virtual support groups: People don’t grieve well alone, they seek comfort from friends and family. Some institutions have setup support groups of different bereaved families over Facebook and other social media platforms that provides an avenue to talk and discuss through the shared feelings of loss.

4. Communication from the healthcare providers: As the confirmation of the death is communicated by the healthcare providers, some countries have extended training services to the healthcare providers. These essentially include potential ways of communicating the death to the patient’s family to ensure a smooth grieving process.

As the number of deaths are increasing all over the world, there is a further need to have National strategies to deal with loss and grief and build resilient models to ensure healthy coping of bereaved families. Following could be leveraged while building the same.

1. Adaptive coping strategies: Coping implies a time-limited response to an event with specific skills, which means that coping ends as the moment ends. However, adaptative coping strategies implies an ongoing process as individuals constantly change to meet the changing conditions of the environment. The dynamic nature of the pandemic environment requires grievers to adapt to the ongoing changes posed by the COVID-19 spread.

2. Empowering communities to support: Communities have proved to be the best support system especially in dealing with loss and grieving during the past epidemics. Communities understand the traditional and cultural beliefs associated and are thus, better equipped to support the bereaved in the communities.

3. Managing guilt: The inability to say goodbye to the loved ones with dignity and compassion may cause the bereaved to feel guilty. The feelings of guilt may mark a barrier in the process of grieving. The strategy must ensure the burials and funerals are dignifies and compassionate.

4. Managing stigma: The family members of a pandemic patient often experience stigmatisation in the community. In case of the death of the patient, stigma interrupts the grieving process of the family.


Corr, Charles A., and Kenneth J. Doka. "Master concepts in the field of death, dying, and bereavement: Coping versus adaptive strategies."OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying43, no. 3 (2001): 183-199.

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