In today’s Facebook Live discussion, Heidi and I talked about the similarities in feeling between the current Coronavirus epidemic and 9/11 in 2001.

In both situations, there is fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and concern over death and dying. Although 9/11 was more sudden than the Coronavirus epidemic has been building over time. Both have released triggers in many people related to past losses. For example, a child who lost a parent may now fear that the Coronavirus may take their other parent away.

Even those that suffered during 9/11 are starting to feel anxiety and dread return. This is especially the case as the virus spreads around the world and begins to make a bigger impact here in the U.S. These situations have involved unexpected events that had not been previously experienced in history.

We’ve also been affected. A recent Compassionate Friends Conference scheduled in Hawaii has been cancelled. It’s a minor inconvenience for us to change our plans. But, Heidi and I are concerned about those who had planned on attending who might have recently suffered a loss and need the support that peers can provide those suffering with grief.

The Impact of Information Overload

All the additional channels and sources of information do help in spreading important notifications quickly. Yet, the media and other sources also may be causing all of us to feel even more anxious.

The school and college closings, including Columbia University where Heidi teaches in New York, have closed their campuses to help minimize the spread of this virus. Signs have gone up everywhere. Now, news stories about people clearing the shelves of sanitizer, toilet paper, bottled water and food may also be contributing to the fear. This is creating an unnecessary panic.

Triggering Past Fear

For those of us that experienced 9/11, especially those who lost loved ones during that traumatic event, may also feel a deeper impact. The statistics shared every day with the latest infected and death rates can trigger that fear of death that happened in the days and weeks that followed 9/11. There was fear about where terrorists would strike next. Now, people are concerned where the next Coronavirus outbreak may occur.

How to Address the Fear and Anxiety

We always recommend getting together with others, including in-person support groups. However, the Coronavirus outbreak has complicated the ability to address the fear of death and dying. All it means is taking a different approach to getting that support and taking care of ourselves during this unique situation.

First, we recommend using those virtual channels to join support groups on sites like Facebook. Although we are now not having our Compassionate Friends Conference, we are in the midst of planning some video conferencing and Facebook live events with the speakers to continue the event. It’s also a good idea to use FaceTime and other video chat apps to reach out to family and friends as emotional anchors.

Second, we always say the power of exercise works wonders on emotions. However, gyms may not be the best place to go right now. Instead, take walks and be connected with Nature. Use online exercise videos to do cardio or even yoga.

Third, try to minimize the media consumption right now. Use this time for reflection, meditation, and journaling. Putting your energy elsewhere may help to lower the anxiety level. We also are happy to accept any articles or posts you would like to share about your reflections and thoughts on the current situation or past loss.

Finally, trust yourself and focus on the facts that we have about the Coronavirus. The odds are low that you will contract and even lower for the risk of dying from it. Listen to organizations like the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) that emphasize hand washing, avoidance of events and crowds, and ongoing sanitizing of surfaces and commonly touched items.

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Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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