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COVID Boosting Parental Death Awareness

COVID-19 has brought parental death out of the shadows by smattering the world with orphans, young ones and adult ones. What will this mean for those grieving a mother or father?

I’ve already seen more chatter across social media platforms on parental death. More people expressing the loss of a mother or father. More people feeling that they can express this loss.

Photo by Luis Galvez

And yet, because so many are grieving a loss due to COVID, some of us may feel we cannot express our loss. We may get the subliminal message that the collective grief outweighs our personal grief. And so, we push down the moments of utter hopelessness and sadness.

We don’t cry. We don’t phone a friend nor ask for help from a support group.

What a complex social dynamic added to the existing complexities of grief! I’m not surprised that the totality of COVID losses is creating what’s been called a tsunami of grief.

The Horrible Body Count

More than half a million people have died in the United States of “deaths involving COVID-19,” according to officials. The oldest die in greater numbers. They are the most likely to be parents. They also may be grandparents.

According to the CDC, the 75- to 84-years-old group has died in the greatest numbers – 133,557 reported dead to the National Center for Health Statistics through Feb. 24th.

The second highest group is 65- to 74-years-old – 103,451 people, a 47.4 percent increase of deaths compared to the 50- to 64-year-old group.

Hierarchy of Grief

But I’m not going to mistake the fresh awareness of parental grief for a wholesale comfortableness with expression of loss. Nor with complete understanding that grief over losing a parent is as valid as losing a spouse. The tide may quickly turn once the pandemic subsides. And again, parental death may be relegated back to its former position on the hierarchy of grief.

Before I became aware, I was guilty. You were supposed to outlive your parent, right, so stop crying already. It’s hard for those who haven’t been there, and that I can understand to a degree. I’m more than happy to educate, but when someone resists the enlightenment, I get angry.

Navigating the Waves

The bottom line for those grieving a parent no matter the cause of death is becoming skilled at navigating the waves. Each situation is as individual as waves a surfer rides.

Photo by Frank Park

You may feel relieved society is more grief-aware right now. Express yourself to safe people and on safe platforms. Or you might feel you are imposing on others who’ve lost a loved one in the pandemic. I encourage you to journal and find friends who are understanding but not grieving.

Most importantly, understand that all grief is legitimate, regardless of what “wave” society is creating. By embracing this legitimacy and a right to grieve as hard and long as we need to, we create space around us and attract the people to us that will help, not hinder, our journey.

Where are you in the expression of the loss of a parent? Do you feel more comfortable in the present atmosphere or inhibited? Who is being most supportive in your life?

Copyright © 2021 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.

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