coronavirus pandemic

Navigating Grief and Remembering Your Loved One During the Holidays

Health experts say it's important to take care of yourself in the midst of mourning

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Losing someone you love is difficult under any circumstances, but this year, the pandemic is adding to the stress and sadness that so many families are feeling.

It's a heartbreaking reality of the pandemic: More than 257,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and a lot of families will be missing loved ones at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.

The pain might feel overwhelming at times. But health experts say it's important to take care of yourself in the midst of mourning. They offer ideas on how to come together to honor those who have died.

Zoe Plaugher, a clinical social worker at Medstar Health, says this time of year can be especially tough because so much is tied to family traditions.

"We might make a pie with somebody every year, and then the next year they're gone," she said. "And so you smell the scent of the pie baking and you miss them."

Plaugher says it's important for people to focus on self-care and recognize the symptoms of grief.

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One symptom of grief is insomnia, Plaugher said. "And so taking time to rest and stay with your eyes shut, even if you can't sleep" can be helpful, she said.

You might wonder when it's time to reach out for some for some professional help.

"If you're having thoughts of hurting yourself or somebody else, definitely reach out for help," Plaugher said. "If you feel as though your life is disrupted and you are having a hard time just kind of getting through the day to day."

Local hospice agencies have resources to help, and websites such as the Dougy Center offer age-appropriate grief responses for children.

Plauger said paying tribute to your loved one on Thanksgiving can also help in the healing process.

"You could set a place for them at the table and you have a moment to talk about them," she said. "Set up an altar where everyone can bring a photo. Tell the story of that person and our love for them and make space for it and recognize them."

It's important that we check on our family, friends, and neighbors, especially this time of year. And don't be afraid to lean on each other, even if it's virtually, because together we can get through this.

Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Patricia Fantis and edited by Perkins Broussard.

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