‘It is a traumatic loss’: People dealing with grief and loss during pandemic

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 9:45 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - For months, trackers across the country have monitored the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. But, along with those figures, there is another growing group of people affected, those grieving their loved ones.

Grief is different for everyone, and usually it doesn’t go away, rather you learn to live with the loss.

But, experts say it is important to let yourself feel those emotions and go through what is called healthy grieving.

“Healthy grieving is talking about it. Being honest with your emotions, sharing it with people,” said Janet Tarr, a facilitator for GriefShare “Being honest when people ask you ‘How are you doing?’ The most common answer is ‘I’m fine’ and deep down inside we are not. We are literally wearing another type of mask when we say we are fine.”

She says grieving is not the time to be strong, it is a time to lean on others. And adds it helps when those individuals can relate to your pain.

People may seek group help days, months, or even years after their loss. Sometimes there are triggers like a smell or a taste. Other times it’s the holidays, or simply a first without them.

“Starting a brand-new year makes it even more difficult, because you are starting a brand-new year without your loved one for the very first time,” says Tarr.

Aside from starting the new year, the pandemic has not made grieving any easier. Many are unable to be with a loved one when they die or are unable to mourn properly around family members.

“Deaths from COVID fall into that category of being complicated grief, it is a traumatic loss. So, those factors combine to this loss being more difficult and plus the isolation, not being able to be with your loved one at their bedside,” said Deborah Andrews, grief counselor at BSA Hospice of the Southwest “So, it is important for people to be able to share those experiences, when you say them out loud it is so therapeutic.”

She adds sometimes people don’t know how to help because pain makes many uncomfortable.

“They always say ‘Call me if you need anything,” but people who are grieving don’t pick up that phone and make that phone call because they are still struggling with what they are experiencing and feel isolated,” said Andrews “And especially with COVID now we don’t have those natural support groups any more to go gather and be with people.”

Natural support groups are those already around you like church members, co-workers, extended family or friends.

Andrews acknowledges it can be nerve wracking to seek help but, asks people who may need this service to just give it a try.

Even if the first couple of sessions are painful, she says she’s noticed those who stay through the course do feel better at the end and value the friends and support created in that setting.

Both Andrews and Tarr lead grief groups in the Amarillo area. Andrews through BSA Hospice of the Southwest and Tarr through GriefShare.

BSA’s free six week virtual ‘Grief During the Pandemic’ support group series starts on January 26. Registration will be open through the first two sessions and close on February 2nd.

To register call (806) 350-1352

It is open to all adults grieving the death of a loved one.

Tarr’s free group sessions last 13 weeks and are hosted in a hybrid setting, meaning people can choose to attend in person or through Zoom.

This group began this week but will take newcomers at any point during the 13 weeks.

Tarr can be reached through email at or by calling (806) 372-0653

There are also other GriefShare groups around the Amarillo Community.

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