Baptist Offers Grief Counseling for People Who’ve Lost Someone to COVID-19
How should you cope with grief during COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Mid-South especially hard, with more than 8,391 deaths in Tennessee as of mid-January. Coronavirus deaths are sudden, and families cannot be with loved ones during their last moments because of restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus. This separation, loss and confusion can be overwhelming for grieving people.
There are no right or wrong ways to experience grief. To better understand how people cope with grief during COVID-19 and how Baptist’s grief support groups can play a role in the healing process, we spoke with Angela Hamblen Kelly, executive director of Baptist Centers for Good Grief.
COVID-19 and Grief Overload
Grief is a normal expression of love after a loved one dies. Everyone grieves—children, teens and adults. Unfortunately, the pandemic is making it even harder.
“Grief is lonely and isolating when we’re not in a pandemic,” said Hamblen Kelly. “Then you add the pandemic, and it complicates the grief experience.”
Grieving people cannot say goodbye in traditional ways, such as funerals, shivas or memorial services because of pandemic restrictions that prohibit large gatherings. At Baptist Centers for Good Grief, counselors work with people who are looking for a place to process their grief.
“A lot of our families are grieving multiple people who have died from COVID-19,” said Hamblen Kelly. “The griever might have had COVID-19 or may currently have COVID-19. They may not get to attend a memorial service because it is postponed or because they themselves are sick.”
Without traditional ways of honoring and remembering loved ones, many people experience what Hamblen Kelly calls grief overload.
“You may be grieving the death of a loved one from COVID-19, and that grief continues because COVID-19 is still here,” said Hamblen Kelly. “Grief makes us feel like we are forever changed. The pandemic has a similar effect on us. The pandemic also creates the lingering fear and anxiety that another loved one will get sick.”
Virtual Support Group for Grieving Loved Ones
To help people cope with the grief of losing a loved one to COVID-19, Baptist Centers for Good Grief designed a six-week virtual support group.
“Many people feel like they can’t talk about their loved one because the pandemic is so big—there are so many deaths,” said Hamblen Kelly. “However, listening is the best thing we can do for a grieving person. Our support sessions will give people a chance to come together virtually.”
A grief counselor will facilitate discussions on certain topics each week. Virtual sessions give members a supportive environment in which they can feel comfortable sharing stories and beginning the healing process. All services at Baptist Centers for Good Grief are free of charge and funded through grants and donations to Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation.
Virtual COVID-19 grief support sessions begin Thursday, January 21 at 4:00 pm and continue through the end of February. To register by January 20, please call 901-861-5656.
“It’s so important for people to understand how real grief is,” said Hamblen Kelly. “The pandemic has impacted everyone. Grief changes us, and it’s important to share that with a counselor, a grief group or a trusted friend. Now more than ever, we need to talk to each other about how we’re doing.”