Grief in the Time of Coronavirus (a sub-par sequel to Love in the Time of Cholera)

Posted on April 10, 2020

Cats on a rooftop

Today’s buzz is by ELGL member, Sarah Henricks, Special Projects Services Consultant for Los Altos Hills County Fire District (Twitter, LinkedIn)

What I’m watching: All of the trashy TV I can find

What I’m reading: Recipes for sourdough starter and discard (quarantine + grief = carbs)

What I’m listening to: The sweet purrs of my boy-cat

We had to put one of our beloved cats to sleep this week. Our family is a little bit smaller, a little less cuddly, and a lot less cute. This got me thinking about how we deal with emotions in this COVID-19 world. In addition to the stress caused by the loneliness that comes with social (or rather, physical) distancing, how do we cope with grief or celebrate happiness while we’re social distancing and lacking physical human connection?

During “normal” times, I would cope with grief by finding refuge in work. Likely, putting in extra hours, or attending some meetings that I would usually skip. But now that we’re all “sheltering in place,” the ability to put it out of mind is more difficult. Working from home means constant reminders of our sweet girl, like a vacant blanket, an abandoned toy, or a cold lap. How are people dealing with the loss of a human family member, either in their household or outside? They don’t have the ability to reach out and hug someone. 

The Los Altos Hills County Fire District (LAHCFD) works through our CERTs (Community Emergency Response Teams) to support CADRE, Collaborating Agencies’ Disaster Relief Efforts, Programs in the community. CADRE emerged after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 to create a support system to better serve vulnerable populations in Santa Clara County, California. Similar to Collective Impact, CADRE serves as a backbone support organization for agencies that may help with response and recovery after a disaster. CADRE has specific protocols it adheres to in order to activate its response system; CADRE is currently activated for COVID-19. LAHCFD CERTs help amplify CADREs message and programming. Some of CADREs programming includes a “Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis” webinar for nonprofits and a team that is focused on providing resources for Emotional/Spiritual Care with modules specifically focused on dealing with grief during this crisis. They even have childbirth prep and support groups, and virtual pet adoption – programs that focus on occasions for celebration that we are still experiencing alone when we should be surrounded by our loved ones.

I’m fortunate to have a husband to grieve with, an equally sweet boy-cat to bury my face in, and a gorgeous, bubbly, giggly human baby girl to distract me from this loss. I can’t imagine how others are dealing with losses like these – many so much greater than the loss of a cat. There are so many people who live alone and are unable to make that human connection. They are struggling through this unprecedented time that seems to have no end. Organizations like CADRE and ELGL are doing their best to provide amazing opportunities to learn and connect, virtually. Local agencies are setting-up teleconferencing platforms so they can host public meetings and continue their essential work.

This is such a bizarre time, but we still need each other. Hug your human and animal families as tight as you can (you know – as long as you live in the2 women, 6ft apart same household, do not suspect that you are sick, etc.) and enjoy the extra time you have together. And, remember to reach out to those around you, safely and from an appropriate distance.


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