How does one go about grieving during a pandemic?

The Covid pandemic has destroyed the fabric of our personal, social, working and community lives. So many lives have been lost. So many families left devastated with the loss of loved ones, whether parents, grandparents, siblings, even on occasion children. Over 600,000 lives in USA alone have been taken by this cruel, uncaring virus.

No country has been left untouched by Covid, including my own beloved Ireland. So much grief, pain and emotional scarring left in its wake. Not to mention the countless others who died during this pandemic from other causes. Their loved ones were grieving during a pandemic, forced to bury their loved one in a time of Covid.

Long-term partners were regularly torn apart, sometimes separated, with one in the ICU whilst the other forced to stay isolated at home, unable to be with the one they loved, during those final hours. Unable to hold and embrace their lifelong companion who lay dying.

The cruelty of Covid death

We have been savagely wrenched away from the person who means so much to them. Forced to say goodbye via some technological device. Others dying in nursing homes with adult children, family and friends unable to be with them, to share their final moments.

Then, there has been the cruel reality of trying to bury our dead during this period. Maybe only receiving the body of the person I loved in a casket, unable to hold, embrace and kiss their remains. Unable to commemorate with friends and family, the life of the special person who is now gone. Forced to choose ten people to attend the funeral and the cemetery with usual Covid restrictions.

Unable here in Ireland to bring the body home for a wake, so all who knew them, could sympathize and celebrate their lives.  In some countries, even seeing the body buried in a mass grave or cremated.

Grieving during a pandemic is extra-complicated

How can one truly grieve the loss of someone so special during this pandemic, where so much of how we grieve as human beings. How do we as a society cope with the emotional tsunami of grief which is coming for so many?

Grief is raw, brutal and elemental. It lies at the very heart of our human experience. It challenges us to the core. Who are we as human beings? Why are we here? Where are we going to? How can we continue to keep going, when those we love most in life, are taken from us? How can  we cope with the changes which now face us, especially without the support and love of those who are no longer with us?

There will be so much sadness over the months and years which will follow, so many tears shed. The more loved the person who is gone, the greater the depth of sadness and pain.

Time heals, but not all the way

Time is not the great healer, as is so often quoted. We will never truly stop grieving their loss but over the months and years which will follow, we will gradually learn to cope better with the sadness and pain. But a part of us is gone. The circle has been broken and can never be the same again.

We must be kind to ourselves and never feel guilty about the manner of either their death or their burial. It is the situation which was abnormal, not us.

Grieving during a pandemic calls on our resilience

Each one of us must grieve in our own unique way. We must find places such as a room, a place, even the site of their burial, where we sense them most and spend time there, in the rubble of our grief. We must let the tears flow, when they overcome us. It is not weak or abnormal or somehow inferior as we seem to be struggling more than others. We just loved the person who is gone and this is our way of expressing that.

Time will help us to adapt to the major changes that their loss will introduce into our lives. The silence. The social changes. The domestic changes. You will never be the same again. Life will never be the same again.

We human beings are however incredibly resilient. You will find a way to a new life. It will be different, sometimes radically so. The person you loved however, will always be with you on this journey, in the background. Encouraging you. Helping you through your pain and loneliness. Helping you with the silence. Maybe this thought will help you make it through.


Dr. Harry Barry can be reached through his website,

He is author of Emotional Healing (Pegasus). Purchase it on Amazon.

Read more about grieving during a pandemic here.




Harry Barry

Harry is an experienced medical doctor who, following a period of running a hospital in the Third World, has worked as a senior GP within the Irish Health System for over thirty-five years. He has a long-standing interest around mental health especially, the management of anxiety, depression, toxic stress and prevention of suicide He has developed a holistic approach with an emphasis on the combination of combining Neuroscience concepts, lifestyle changes and where necessary drug therapy, with the application of simple CBT approaches to effectively manage these conditions. He is a Member of the Royal College of GPs in London; a Member of the Irish College of GPs and holds a Masters in CBT. He is passionate about emotional resilience and how developing skills in this area could transform our mental health all domains of life, including the workplace. In relation to the workplace, he is passionate about the importance of self-care, combining lifestyle changes and emotional resilience skills to improve our mental wellbeing and reduce incidence of mental health difficulties. He has spoken in well-known companies such as Google in Dublin and Which HQ in London. He retired from full time general practice in 2013 to focus solely on mental health. He now works on a consultancy basis combining clinics, writing, media and public information lectures and webinars as well as assisting fellow GPs, nurses (including occupational health nurses), guidance counsellors, parents, teachers, sports clubs and therapists with lectures and workshops. He is the author of 10 books about mental health. His books Anxiety and Panic and Emotional Resilience and Self-Acceptance reached number one on the Irish nonfiction best seller list. Anxiety and Panic laid out a revolutionary new approach to banishing panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety and general anxiety from your life. Emotional Resilience laid out 20 key skills that can revolutionize your mental health. Self-Acceptance which was launched in 2019 Self-Acceptance was reviewed by Bruce Daisley former Vice President Twitter Europe – ‘This is the most remarkable book you will read this year. Surprising, stimulating and guaranteed to change your behaviour. I found myself riveted by its compelling evidence’. It was also reviewed by Professor Catherine Harmer, Professor Cognitive Neuroscience Oxford who called it – ‘----This book is a joy to read - a real page turner----'. His last book Emotional Healing, which was launched in London and Dublin and recently by Pegaus in New York, deals with the world of emotional distress and how to manage it, including an in depth discussion on grief. Emotional Healing was described by Bruce Daisley, former VP Twitter Europe as "An intensely powerful book filled with clear tools to help us survive and cope with some of the most profound moments in our lives. Moving and thoughtful". His latest book Embracing Change was launched in May 2021. It deals with the mental health challenges presented by stressful periods of transitional change in our lives, from becoming a new parent, to a cancer diagnosis to the menopause to retirement and so on. He is a regular contributor to national press and national and local media (both TV and radio) on the subject of mental health and is a monthly contributor to the Sean O’ Rourke and now the Claire Byrne Today show for past seven years. He has also been a contributor over the years, to TV shows such Claire Byrne Live, Prime Time, Ray Darcy Show, Morning AM, The Tonight Show and the ‘Late Late Show’. He served on the national board of the Depression Charity Aware for over ten years. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the College of Psychiatry of Ireland. He has also been a member of an international group of experts (which includes for example Professor Catherine Harmer, Professor Cognitive Neuroscience Oxford), exploring how best to measure cognition in depression and who published a journal article on the subject in 2019. His website is

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