Coronavirus grief: Coping with the loss of routine during the pandemic

It isn't easy adjusting to changes brought on by the pandemic. Consider how to deal with grief caused by the loss of your normal routine.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has changed people's lives in many ways. In addition to feeling grief over the loss of life caused by COVID-19, you're likely grieving the loss of your normal routine.

Understanding grief caused by the coronavirus pandemic

Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the past year have affected people's jobs, where people work, the way kids go to school and play, and the ability to gather in person with family and friends. These measures have also changed how people shop, worship, exercise, eat, seek entertainment and celebrate holidays and special events. As a result, the pandemic has had a major psychological impact, causing people to lose a sense of safety, predictability, control, freedom and security.

Why is the loss of your routine so upsetting? You might not realize it, but you don't only feel attachments to other people. You also probably feel powerful attachments to your work and certain places and things. The experience of losing these attachments, however, isn't as well-defined as some losses. And unexpected endings can cause strong emotions. This can make it hard to deal with what's happened and move forward.

You might also find that changes brought on by the pandemic are affecting your sense of self. For instance, if your identity is closely tied to your job, losing your job could trigger an identity crisis.

Signs and symptoms of grief

Grief might cause you to feel numb or empty, angry, or unable to feel joy or sadness. You might also have physical symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or eating, excess fatigue, muscle weakness, or shakiness. You might have nightmares or socially withdraw.

Keep in mind, however, that grief can also have some positive effects. For example, you might feel grateful for brave and caring people in your community. You might have an increased appreciation for your relationships and have a desire to help others who are experiencing similar losses.

Coping with coronavirus grief

As awful as it might feel, grief serves an important purpose. Grief helps you recognize that you've experienced a loss and that you're going to need to adapt.

To deal with your grief:

  • Pay attention to your feelings. Name what you've lost due to the pandemic. It might help to write this down in a journal. Allow yourself to feel sadness or cry.
  • Think about your strengths and coping skills. How can they help you move forward? Consider other tough transitions you've been through, such as a previous job change or divorce. What did you do that helped you recover?
  • Stay connected. Stay in touch with family and friends who are positive and supportive. Pets also can provide emotional support.
  • Create an adapted routine. This can help preserve a sense of order and purpose, despite how much things may have changed. In addition to work or online learning, include activities that might help you cope, such as exercise, worship or hobbies. Keep a regular sleep schedule and try to maintain a healthy diet.
  • Limit your news diet. Spending too much time reading or listening to news about the COVID-19 pandemic can cause you to focus heavily on what you've lost, as well as increase anxiety.
  • Remember the journey. If you've lost your job, you don't have to let the way it ended define the whole experience. Consider some of your good memories and the big picture.
  • Take comfort in creativity. Cooking, gardening, making art or being creative in other ways might help you feel better.

Focus on the present and the things you can control. As you adjust, your feelings of grief are likely to lessen.

If you're having trouble coping with your grief over changes caused by the pandemic, consider seeking help from a mental health provider.

May 29, 2021 See more In-depth

See also

  1. After COVID-19 vaccination: Is it OK to visit with loved ones?
  2. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  3. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  4. Convalescent plasma therapy
  5. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  6. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  7. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  8. Coronavirus vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  9. Cough
  10. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  11. COVID-19 and high blood pressure
  12. COVID-19 and pets
  13. COVID-19 and your mental health
  14. COVID-19 antibody testing
  15. COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu
  16. COVID-19 and holidays
  17. COVID-19 (coronavirus) drugs: Are there any that work?
  18. COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children
  19. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  20. COVID-19 (coronavirus) travel advice
  21. COVID-19 tests
  22. How well do face masks protect against coronavirus?
  23. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  24. COVID-19 vaccine: Should I reschedule my mammogram?
  25. COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know
  26. COVID-19 vaccines
  27. COVID-19 variant
  28. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  29. Debunking coronavirus myths
  30. Diarrhea
  31. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  32. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  33. Fever
  34. Fever: First aid
  35. Fever treatment: Quick guide to treating a fever
  36. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
  37. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  38. How does COVID-19 affect people with diabetes?
  39. How to take your pulse
  40. How to measure your respiratory rate
  41. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  42. How to take your temperature
  43. How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
  44. Loss of smell
  45. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  46. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  47. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
  48. Nausea and vomiting
  49. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  50. Coronavirus infection by race
  51. Red eye
  52. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  53. Safety tips for returning to school during COVID-19
  54. Sex and COVID-19
  55. Shortness of breath
  56. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  57. Teleworking during the coronavirus
  58. Thermometers: Understand the options
  59. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  60. Treating COVID-19 at home
  61. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  62. Watery eyes
  63. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  64. Contact tracing and COVID-19: What is it and how does it work?
  65. What's causing my infant's diarrhea?