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Coping with grief and loss during a pandemic

ROTC cadets perform military funeral service for high school instructor Senior Master Sergeant Morgan Hager. (KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Someone you know lost a friend, family member or co-worker and is coping with grief during the pandemic. You want to reach out, but is it too soon? What do you say? What if you say the wrong thing? Do you rush in and provide comfort or stay back and give that grieving person their space?

Coping with grief starts with acknowledgment

Dr. Kristin Francis, a psychiatrist with Huntsman Mental Health, shares advice on dealing with loss with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic.

Francis said start by acknowledging the person’s grief by saying something like:

  • “I don’t have the words right now,”
  • “There are no words to convey my sorrow at your loss,” 
  • “I can’t imagine what you’re going through” or
  • “I want you to know that I am here.”

Being there to share

She also said keep showing up for the grieving person — by text, phone or in person.

“And recognizing that someone else’s grief process may look very different from your own,” Francis said.

Opening up to grief

Host Dave Noriega said he lost his father in his early 20s and his reaction was to shut others out.

“Is there anything I can do to let people in?” he asked.

Francis said opening up emotionally for bereaving people can be especially difficult if they were raised not to talk openly about their feelings.

She recommends naming the feeling you are experiencing in grief, then acknowledging the feeling in a public or in a private way.

“Finding someone that you can connect with, even if you can say, ‘I don’t have the words. I’m just really beside myself right now’ or ‘I’m really angry’ or ‘I don’t know what to say.’ That’s a great place to start so that you aren’t shutting yourself off,” Francis said.

She said another important part of grief management is letting the people in your life know what you need.

Francis also advised keeping your responses and reactions from the person who is grieving. 

“It’s even OK to say, “Look, I’m so sorry. I feel so awkward. I don’t always know what to do, but I want to let you know, I’m here, I care,'” she said.

Lastly, Francis recommends asking permission to follow up with the grieving friend, family member or colleague. If they say no, respect that, she said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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