Grieving This Season of Loss
COVID-19: Messages of Faith

“Grieving This Season of Loss,” Liahona, May 2020.

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Grieving This Season of Loss

It’s understandable if you’re feeling grief because of the pandemic. Here are resources than can help.

Hair in the Wind

A high school senior lost her chance to lead the marching band.

A grandfather missed seeing a grandchild get married.

Seven-year-old twins had a small birthday party instead of the big one they’d been looking forward to.

If this pattern of disappointment sounds familiar, you’ve probably felt grief recently, even if you didn’t recognize what it was at the time. We talk about grief when someone dies—and sadly, there is plenty of death going on in the world right now. But grief is a natural reaction to any loss, including the disruptions caused by the recent pandemic. It makes sense that many of us are experiencing grief right now.

What is grief? How can we process it in a healthy way? Is there anything we can do to help those grieving around us? This article will address these questions with both expert information and gospel inspiration. It will also explore the role of the Savior as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), who knows perfectly how to help us move forward in healing together.

Understanding Grief

As mentioned, grief is a natural reaction to loss, big or small. Grief can accompany anything that changes or ends—a relationship, a job, or a particular aspect of identity, for example.1 There is also such a thing as “anticipatory grief,” which we might feel when we are uncertain about a loss we may experience in the future.

“We’re feeling a number of different griefs,” said bioethicist and author David Kessler about the pandemic. “We feel this world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different.”2

Everyone experiences grief in different ways. Experts used to think a person progressed through “stages of grief” one by one. But now we know people go through these phases in different orders, perhaps skipping some steps and repeating others. Generally, grief reactions tend to include feelings of:

Denial. We may feel numb or think something like, “This won’t affect my family,” or “This isn’t really a big deal.”

Anger. We may feel helpless to stop the loss, which can turn into anger toward others, God, life in general, or a loved one who died and left us.

Bargaining. We may try to make deals with God, or get stuck in regretful “If only I had …” thoughts.

Depression. We realize these losses will change daily life, and may experience extreme sadness, crying, disruptions to eating and sleeping, and other difficult symptoms.

Acceptance. We accept that what happened can’t be changed. We also recognize what we can change, and are able to start moving forward even if we still feel sad.3

During this tumultuous time, let’s be extra patient with ourselves and others. Everyone we meet is probably experiencing emotional, social, and economic losses because of the pandemic—including the death of loved ones. President Henry B. Eyring has often shared advice he once received that seems particularly appropriate right now: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”4

Getting through in a Healthy Way

What can we do to get through this season of grief in a healthy way? Years ago, I had a similar question in my heart, and God used a plant to teach me an important lesson. It was a thistle—a tall weed with a jagged stem, topped with a purple flower. The loveliness of the blossom didn’t diminish the harshness of the spikes, or vice versa, and I thought about how beauty and sorrow have a similar relationship. It’s OK if this season of grief is also a time of selflessness, creativity, sanctification, and compassion. Many of the Psalms describe grieving while also rejoicing in the goodness of God (see Psalms 13 and 27, for example). I find inner healing whenever I search for things to be grateful for, even if the prickly circumstances remain painful.

Another suggestion about coping comes from a man named Rob who had to unexpectedly evacuate his mission 23 years ago—much like his son, who was recently reassigned because of the pandemic.

“I remember my dad giving me advice just before leaving on my mission. He said to have faith and a sense of humour,” Rob said. “At the time I didn’t think much of it. But there were numerous times where my sense of humour helped me during my ordeal, especially as I was reassigned to a new mission. Even though I had been a missionary for more than a year, I had to start over in a new country with a new language. I was basically a greenie again! My ability to have a sense of humour helped alleviate the anxiety of the chaos I had left, as well as the stress of starting over in a new place. The lessons I learned on my mission have been the basis of my advice to my son these past few weeks.”

In addition to these thoughts about gratitude and humor, here are a few tips from mental health professionals about coping with grief. You might also want to explore the resources listed at the end of this article.

  • Let yourself feel the grief instead of pushing it away. Ignoring it will only make things worse in the long run.

  • Seek support from people who care about you.

  • Express your true feelings. Crying doesn’t mean that you are weak. (It’s also OK if you don’t cry!)

  • Take care of yourself physically, which will help you cope emotionally.

  • Realize that time usually helps heal grief and loss, and there is no “normal” timetable for grief.5

As we try to incorporate these ideas, we can trust that the Lord will never abandon us. “Lift up your heads and be of good comfort,” He told the people of Alma the Elder, who were under Lamanite bondage, “for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:13). Those people were not suddenly free of their troubles, but they were strengthened so that they could “bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15).

Helping Others, Especially Children

Speaking of covenants, we can view this pandemic as an opportunity to prove that we are loyal to the promises we made at baptism. Our time on earth might be the only chance we have to show God that we are willing to share finite resources—like money, time, and even blood as health permits—to help with mortal problems like poverty and disease and loneliness. Are we using this season of grief to “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9)?

Our children might especially need our help and guidance right now. Their disappointments, even if they seem small to us as adults, are as valid as the heartbreak we feel. “While you can’t protect children from loss and the pain it may cause, you can play a major role in helping them feel secure and cope in the healthiest way possible,” states information from a nonprofit organization called the Child Mind Institute. Here are four suggestions, adapted from their content, for helping children grieve in a S.A.F.E. and healthy way:

  • Speak plainly about what is happening instead of using euphemisms or jargon. Fuzzy language can make kids even more anxious and confused.

  • Answer your child’s questions in age-appropriate ways, without dumping too much information on them. Let their worries guide the conversation.

  • Follow a normal daily routine as much as possible, which can help children feel secure and see that life goes on despite change.

  • Encourage your family to share their feelings. As adults, we can model how to talk about emotions and comfort those who are upset.6

As with all things, the Savior set a perfect example of ministering. He treated children as precious (see Luke 18:16) and paid attention to people who were overlooked by others (see Mark 5:25–34). He dismissed a crowd that was inappropriately laughing in the home of mourning parents (see Matthew 9:24–25). He took time to listen to those who were in pain (see John 5:6–7) and those who were worried about sick loved ones (see Matthew 7:5–13). We can choose to follow His example in our homes and as we use technology to connect with others during this stressful time.

Jesus Is with Us

“Jesus wept.” Those two words recorded in John 11:35 describe the Savior’s reaction to the death of His friend Lazarus. Although this is the shortest verse in scripture, it teaches us volumes about the compassion of Jesus Christ and His familiarity with grief.

It’s important to understand that the Savior is not just familiar with the idea of grief generally. He understands our grief specifically and personally. He is with us in all times, good and bad, no matter what is happening. He “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).

Although we don’t know exactly what was going through the Savior’s mind and heart as He grieved the death of His friend, we do know He prayed while standing at the tomb where Lazarus was buried. “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41–42). We can follow the Savior’s example of turning toward Heavenly Father in our grief instead of away from Him. Our Heavenly Father loves us. The loss we experience and the grief we feel are not punishments from Him but simply part of our mortal journey.

I hope something in this article has been helpful. Perhaps the single most important message about grief is this: The Savior has limitless power to heal. At times during this pandemic, we may feel trapped inside a metaphorical tomb of postponed plans and delayed dreams. But on those hard days, remember that we are loved by One who conquered every tomb. Jesus Christ offers us new life. He knows how to loose whatever binds us. As we follow Him with patience and faith, we will hear His words encouraging us to “come forth” (John 11:43) and embrace the many opportunities life still has to offer.


  1. See mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief.

  2. In Scott Berinato, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” Harvard Business Review, Mar. 23, 2020, hbr.org.

  3. See “What Is Normal Grieving, and What Are the Stages of Grief?” WebMD, webmd.com/balance/normal-grieving-and-stages-of-grief.

  4. Henry B. Eyring, “Try, Try, Try,” Oct. 2018 general conference.

  5. See “Coping with Grief and Loss,” HelpGuide, helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm.

  6. See “Helping Children Cope With Grief,” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-grief/. For additional information about helping children with grief, visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children at childrengrieve.org.