Center for Shared Insight, PC

Coronavirus Grief: Mourning Lost Milestones

May 19, 2020
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
couple getting married

The coronavirus pandemic turned life upside down overnight. In a matter of just days, everything from work to schools to upcoming vacation plans shifted. Not a single person was unaffected by these changes, yet some individuals were more significantly impacted, especially if they had a major life event or milestone on the horizon. If you are pregnant during this time, undergoing fertility treatment, or planning a major life event like a wedding or graduation, you are undoubtedly sad or disappointed about the way that experience will actually look. 

Our team of therapists in Denver, Colorado have been delivering online therapy to those emotionally impacted by coronavirus in this way. This blog post provides some alternative ways to honor important events and milestones during this “new normal”.

The Losses

For those fortunate enough to get pregnant before many people’s fertility treatments took a pause, you may be grieving the loss of the pregnancy experience you dreamt of since you were young. And, if you had any challenges with getting pregnant, you might not feel able to experience the disappointment and sadness that your pregnancy is not looking the way you planned it would go. 

You likely planned on showers, gender reveal parties, and other celebrations to honor this milestone in your life. Showing off your baby bump to your friends and family couldn’t come soon enough once you found out you were indeed pregnant. You probably had a vision of regular OB appointments that are exciting and positive, and attended by your partner, and had a birth plan that included your partner and mother, and maybe even a birth doula. 

Perhaps now, you are faced with more limited birthing options. Instead of anticipating pregnancy as a joyous event, you might have anxiety about your newborn getting sick, or even contracting the virus at one of your appointments. You might be faced with new decisions about the option of home birth or using a birthing center, but unsure about the risks of that as well. 

For those of you with a child graduating from high school or college, your vision of a beautiful celebration, with family and friends, was probably postponed. If you planned the trip of a lifetime to celebrate a milestone birthday, you are likely scrambling to formulate a plan B. Maybe you’re missing your parent’s milestone birthday, which pains you and yet you know you need to socially distance yourself to protect them, yourself and your family. 

Rescheduling, postponing or dramatically altering wedding plans is probably every couple's worst nightmare. You have to, you know it’s the safe thing to do, but darnit, you have dreamt of this moment your whole life and put so much time, effort and money into the planning process - it just doesn’t feel fair. 

There is so much loss and disconnect between our expectations and reality during this unprecedented time in our lives. It’s completely understandable that you feel a cocktail of emotions - sometimes all at once - including disappointment, sadness, anger, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.

Finding Acceptance

During this pandemic, there is a silent and collective grieving occurring. It’s being talked about far less than the pain inflicted by the virus itself. There is a typical grieving process that occurs with any loss, even the loss of a dream of how things should be. You might even find yourself going through the stages of grief, which are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

When you can’t realize the vision you’ve imagined, consider how you might be able to find acceptance and create an alternative experience during this challenging time. Don’t worry, we’re not telling you to be okay with it all. You can feel your feelings and work to accept what is happening.

Alternatives to Milestones

While we know it sucks, are there ways that you can reinvent or re-envision these special times in your life? Here are some of our ideas:

  • Instead of the baby showers and girly brunches and other social events you imagined, could you plan a one-year birthday bash to celebrate your new baby instead? 

  • Is there an exciting project you can work on while you wait for a better time to try fertility treatments again? 

  • Can you plan the intimate two or three-person ceremony - the type of gathering you secretly thought would be special pre-COVID but never let yourself say out loud - and delay the big celebration with family and friends? 

  • Could you delay that graduation party for your senior and instead, use that money to plan a trip with your graduate to look forward to once the pandemic subsides? 

  • Can you collect written messages or video clips from family and friends to share with your graduate that will let them know they are celebrated, special, and honored for all their hard work? 

What new rituals or rites of passage can you create for yourself to honor these important milestones? Could they be more meaningful and intentional than the ones we do by default? 

You are not alone as you grieve and consider how you might recreate the experiences you were looking forward to prior to this coronavirus outbreak. Find comfort in knowing that so many people are challenged to also reimagine their plans and expectations during this time. 

Our team at Center for Shared Insight can help you understand, work through and accept your grief, and make alternate plans to recognize the milestones in your life. Contact us for a free 20-minute consultation and to learn how we can support you with online therapy during this challenging time.




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