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The Pandemic Made Grief Harder. Some May Need Help

Shear said COVID-19 may cause more difficult grief because the deaths were often sudden and unexpected. There was a random quality to who got really sick and who sailed through. Family members, who often tested positive, too, may feel responsible. Some may become preoccupied with their inability to offer comfort in person as a loved one was dying. Certain psychological factors, such as previous experience of traumas, multiple deaths or a history of mood disorders, also raise risk.

It's too early to know whether families will react differently to the current rash of deaths among the unvaccinated, deaths that could have been prevented.

WHOM TO BE ANGRY WITH? Alexis and Deborah Washington both say they struggled with their grief, but are doing much better now.

Deborah Washington said 2020 was "very, very, very hard." Her friends couldn't visit and, at first, her cough was so bad she had to limit time on the phone. But she has kept in contact with her husband's best friend and his wife and talks frequently with a friend who was widowed before her. By the time her mother died, she wondered how much more she could take, but she just dealt with issues as they arose. She thinks it helped that she quickly accepted that her husband was gone. "This is the way it's going to be," she said. There was no point in anger. "You don't know who to be angry with," she said.

She celebrated her son's graduation from seminary in June, and her faith was a great comfort. She became missionary president at the church. She's planning to visit family in Denmark in August.

Alexis Washington thinks she's had a harder time than her mother and considers her grief prolonged. She had trouble finding the support she needed. "Being so young, my friends, they were there, but none of them had gone through what I had gone through." Now, unfortunately, more of them have. She has also found others with similar experiences. After some time on a waiting list, she found a good therapist.

She still really misses her father some days, but the worst is behind her. "I'm definitely in acceptance and trying to find ways to honor him and give back," she said.

She did a chaplaincy internship at Lankenau Medical Center and is considering a career change to some sort of spiritual care. She and her mother have both become advocates for vaccination in the Black community. Their church, which has not yet reopened, will be a vaccination site this fall. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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