New Book Forecasts Grim Grief Outcomes for Those Bereaved During Pandemic

Categories: Education.

The grief of family members who are kept from the bedside as their family members die is the most profound, raw grief that I’ve ever encountered. — author Mary McDonald, MD, a hospice medical director

 I grieve for the loss of my many patients, over and over again, since I had no time to stop and breathe while I was in the thick of it. — author Brenda Kotar, RN, MSN, a travel nurse working in COVID-19 units

Hospice Foundation of America (HFA) announced the publication of Living with Grief Since COVID-19, a groundbreaking volume written by survivors of COVID-19 and healthcare and grief professionals working in the pandemic environment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably lead to a consequent pandemic of complicated grief. Whether an individual has died from the disease or some other cause, every death and every grief journey has been affected by COVID-19,” co-editor, author, and noted grief expert Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv, writes of this historic period.

Available in late February, the book examines how the COVID-19 pandemic and conditions surrounding it have upended the experience of death and loss in the United States. Death and loss during COVID-19 have been traumatic, isolated, absent of ritual, and often cumulative, all contributors to poor grief outcomes of survivors without skilled intervention.

Academic analyses and first-person accounts in the book describe and examine:

  • healthcare workers’ heroic commitment to patients and families;
  • the plight of nursing homes;
  • tragic outcomes and spiritual distress;
  • disproportionate loss due to racial injustice;
  • non-death losses of COVID-19 “long haulers;”
  • best practices for virtual support;
  • hospice and palliative care’s critical role in the pandemic;
  • and opportunities for institutional and systemic growth and improvement.

“Arguably, working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home is now one of the most hazardous occupations in America; if such a rate of death occurred in any other sector there would be a huge outcry and demands for reform. Instead, barely a whisper is heard as these devoted professionals quietly continue to show up to work and care for their residents,” writes Elaine Healy, MD, a nursing home medical director.

The book also includes a chapter by Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD and Sherman A. Lee, PhD, about the psychological impacts of the pandemic, along with two newly developed clinical assessment tools specific to COVID-19 for those working in healthcare and bereavement counseling.

In his foreword, J. William Worden, PhD, renowned bereavement pioneer, encourages readers to learn from the book and “share their knowledge of the pandemic’s implications with colleagues and friends. After all, one of the best avenues for problem solving is when bright people shine light on tough issues.”

Review from the Journal of Gerontological Social Work:

Living with Grief is one of the most comprehensive and affirming compilations about grief, dying, and death and COVID-19 from respected, diverse perspectives….The authors successfully covered  a broad overview of relevant content that can inform, educate, and offer hope to most anyone living with grief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approach to the issues of grief is refreshing and innovative in that the book covers a broad range of topics from advance care planning to posttraumatic stress, skillfully providing helpful information that can be applied across audiences…. It is a compelling read that is relevant and applicable to the lives of most anyone who works with grieving clients or who is experiencing grief in their own personal lives.

This is an excellent and well-written work that illuminates the power of diversity in expres­sion and voice. COVID-19 has devastated so many lives and the long-term consequences of complicated grief and trauma are yet unknown. Even with that reality, this book provides a sense of hopefulness and a sense of reassurance while living in the midst of a pandemic.

Gloria T. Anderson (2021): Living with Grief Since COVID-19, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2021.1908476

The book is part of HFA’s ongoing educational initiative to increase awareness of grief warning signs and grief complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Living with Grief Since COVID-19 is available to order on HFA’s website or by calling 800-854-3402.

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