Discussion: Grieving and mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic

The World
Updated on
A nurse is shown through the glass of a closed door looking into a darkened room with two other medical professionals dressed in protective clothing.

It’s been just over a week since the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

The number of people dead, which globally is more than 2.5 million people and over 115 million confirmed infections, once seemed unimaginable and is a stark confirmation of the virus’s reach into nearly all corners globe.

“It’s very hard for me to imagine an American who doesn’t know someone who has died or have a family member who has died,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Related discussion: Variants, vaccines and the coronavirus pandemic

Experts warn that deaths will continue to grow, despite the rollout of massive vaccination campaigns. A staggering number of families continue dealing with death, serious illness and financial hardship. Many are left to cope in isolation, unable even to hold funerals because of the crisis.

The number of lives lost from COVID-19 in the US alone is roughly equal to the number of Americans killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. It is akin to a 9/11 every day for nearly six months.

Related discussion: Airborne transmission, ventilation, and reopening schools and workplaces

The end of the pandemic is still a long way off, and the death toll continues to weigh on the mental health of people around the world. How do you grieve amid the ongoing suffering? And how do we bolster ourselves to cope with the scope of the loss now and in the future?

As part of The World’s regular series of conversations with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, reporter Elana Gordon moderated a discussion with clinical psychologist Christy Denckla.

This conversation is presented jointly with the Forum at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

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