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Grief & Loss During COVID-19

NYSPA Presidential Taskforce on Grief & Loss
During the Time of COVID-19

We're here to help you through


A Letter to our visitors,

      We find ourselves today living in a totally changed and unrecognizable world.  We are stalked by an invisible threat, and because it is invisible, it feels unreal. We now fear that such mundane acts as going to the supermarket or walking down the street could kill us.  Masks were thought of as a nefarious (or playful) way of altering our identity. Now we are wearing them and “hiding” in order to stay alive. We have lost the threads of society which bind us together and help us find a common ground:  our educational, religious, cultural, and social institutions can no longer comfort or nourish us as before.   What have all these losses and changes done to us emotionally?  Fear, anxiety , and depression are common. For many people, death anxiety, normally tamped down by our defenses, is leaking out, and  wrecking  havoc with our psyches.

     When interviewed this spring, Robert Neimeyer, a noted grief expert, offered that we have experienced a change in our assumptive world. Normally, we exist believing that life is relatively predictable. But our belief that the world is a relatively safe place is a fragile illusion. For the past several months we have been dealing with the loss of the world we have known, loss of a predictable future, social isolation, loss of our illusion of certainty. Psychologically, society has lost the sense of conventional reality, and the illusions of invulnerability, control, and predictability.

      Our hearts ache for the personal losses people have experienced: loss of loved ones, including parents, spouses, children, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Mourners are struggling to cope with these losses without the comfort and assistance of cultural, social and spiritual rituals of mourning. Grief now is certain to be complicated.  Those who were grieving a loss before the pandemic are feeling an intensification of their experience.

     Then there are those struggling with myriad other losses: employment, financial security, child care, routines, freedoms, cultural institutions, rituals and planned events, such as weddings, graduations, and trips.

     Politically and socially, we are confronted with the ugly underbelly of hate, bigotry, racism, and the social and economic injustice which is in our country. Our citizens are divided, angry, outraged, fearful, and either demanding change or fighting against it.

     Worst of all, we don’t know when the end will be, or if there will be an end.

     So how can we respond to all this change, uncertainty, grief and anxiety?  The human struggle involves grappling with the happenings and events of life, and trying to make some sense of them in terms of our own existence. To paraphrase Viktor Frankl, the only control we have is HOW we shape our response to what life brings us.  For each of us, that means trying to find our own coping skills and resilience, and helping others do the same. The challenge for each of us is to continue to be able to say “yes” to life, and to continue to live with an open and hopeful heart.

     The information in this White Paper provides some tools to do just that.


In Solidarity,

Members of the Presidential Taskforce on Grief & Loss During COVID-19


Courtney Bancroft, PsyD
Delrita Abercrombie, PhD
Chris Allen, PhD
Janet Plotkin Bornstein, PhD
Bernice Gottschalk, PhD
Anne Kane, PhD
Dan Kaplin, PhD
Maury Lacher, PhD
Patricia Pitta, PhD
Amy Raphael, PhD
Evelyn Rappoport, PsyD
Dinelia Rosa, PhD
Mitchell Slutzky, PhD
Virginia Waters, PhD
Dan Wolfson, PsyD






In Memoriam, Remembering our NYSPA members