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Delayed Grief: Waves of Grief as Lockdown Lifts

People delay their grief in different ways and for all sorts of reasons, enforced isolation due to COVID is something many of us are processing now.
Delayed Grief: Waves of Grief as Lockdown Lifts

Waves of Grief as Lockdowns Lift

As restrictions start to lift in NSW and Victoria most of us look forward to a return to life as we knew it before COVID.  But for those who have lost someone dear to them, the thought of returning to normal life can bring mixed feelings

Because it’s out in the real world that the triggers exist.  As we drive past their favourite restaurant, spot their empty desk on our return to the office, or listen keenly for their familiar laugh at the long-awaited family barbeque only to realise they are truly gone.

It’s a distressing experience affecting people the world over.  In the article ‘Wave of delayed grief likely as pandemic ebbs’, Donna Wilson, a US professor who studies death, age and grieving, states “For the last 18 months we haven’t had the normal grieving rituals which help us manage our grief. Grief is still there and at some point, it has to come out.”

People delay their grief in different ways and for all sorts of reasons.  Many of us experience a period of numbness in the first weeks after the loss – a protective mechanism to keep the raw emotions at bay.  We delay our grief reaction in order to build up enough inner strength to deal with it or gather up enough social and professional support to help us get through it.

And there are more complex reasons for delayed grief;  we might have other urgent responsibilities that we prioritise before our grief (such as caring for children); the relationship with the person who died might bring up conflicting emotions that require us to process the trauma of the relationship before we can open ourselves up to grieving; and in cases of disenfranchised grief, where there is a stigma associated such as overdose or suicide, we may not feel entitled or safe enough to show or feel the emotions at first.

But if the thought of facing more crashing waves of grief has you pondering self-imposed lockdown, consider a recent report that suggested triggers are essential for grief recovery.  In order to process the grief we must face the loss.  Triggers help us to acknowledge and accept the death, and show us that over time the pain does subside… and we can survive.

However, If you think your grief has been delayed for an extended period of time, it might be worthwhile checking in with a GP or counsellor to ensure it doesn’t develop into more complicated grief.

If you would like to talk to someone about your own personal grief experience call the Griefline Helpline on 1300 845 745.  We’re here for you.


Betkowski, B. (2021, 08 23). Wave of delayed grief likely as pandemic ebbs, says expert. University of Alberta. Retrieved 10 18, 2021, from

Wilson, D. M., Underwood, L., & Errasti-Ibarrondo, B. (2021). A scoping research literature review to map the evidence on grief triggers. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 282, 114109–114109.

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