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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

'There's no timeline': Two North Texans share how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way they grieve

Katie Broyles holds her young son as she sits on a yellow and red upholstered chair in her house, plants dotting the background.
Katie Broyles
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KERA News
Katie Broyles started attending a grief support group in 2019, after the loss of her mother. "Regardless of how many people you have around you, no one really understands what you're going through unless you've actually gone through it."

The pandemic has affected the way people grieve. Everything from planning memorial services to the ease of connecting with family and friends has been altered by COVID-19.

Katie Broyles and Amber Blocker both met in a grief support group in Dallas-Fort Worth. Broyles lost her mother in 2018 due to gun violence, and started going to the group in 2019 after a grief counselor recommended it. Blocker lost her mother a few months before the pandemic started in 2020, and started attending the group virtually in the spring.

Both Broyles and Blocker share what it's been like to find support virtually, how the pandemic has changed their grieving process, and what they wish people knew about loss.

How the pandemic affected the grief process

Amber Blocker: I've been kind of forced to do it alone without having a lot of people around. But in a way, I think that's kind of helped me. If things were open, or I was still in school, I probably would have pushed my grief to the side. It's weird to think about how it would be without the pandemic, because we've been in the pandemic for so long.

Katie Broyles: I lost my mom two years before the pandemic started. But I have the same answer, I've had to sit with the grief. Before, I was working. When you're stuck at home, you don't have anywhere to escape. I really had to deal with it. It's hard, but it's almost accelerated the process.

The biggest misconceptions people have about grief

Amber Blocker: Sometimes people think oh, it's been a year, it's been three years. They should be over it. But I feel like that's one of the big misconceptions. No matter how much time passes, it's still hard. There's no timeline. It's gonna hit you at different times in life.

Katie Broyles: When I was getting close to coming in on the first year, I was almost dreading it. I thought, now everyone's gonna think I should be over this by now. That timeline put pressure on me and my own grief, to say maybe I do need to be over this by now. That's just not the case.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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