In an effort to help families struggling to mourn loved ones while maintaining social distancing, the American Red Cross has announced a Virtual Family Assistance Center. The hub offers special programs, information, referrals, and services for families, and can also connect people to community resources in their area.1

“This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone, but especially for those who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19,” said Valerie Cole, PhD, manager of individual disaster care for the Red Cross, in a statement. “Not only have these families experienced the unexpected passing of a loved one, but they are also facing additional challenges caused by this public health emergency.”1

The CDC has reported more than 1,551,095 cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States, including 93,061 deaths. New York State has been the hardest hit, with 28,609 deaths, and states across the country have also reported high numbers.2

Counseling patients on grief during the pandemic is an important step in caring for their mental health. According to the Dana-Farber Institute, recommendations for counseling patients on grief include acknowledging that this is an unusual situation, giving yourself permission to grieve, creating a daily routine, and focusing on self-care.3

Because of continuing social distancing policies and stay-at-home orders, many families have been unable to grieve their family members at funerals or other family gatherings, according to the press release. To help, the Red Cross portal also includes a virtual team of specially trained mental health, spiritual care, and health services volunteers.1

The team is able to connect with families over the phone to offer support and access to resources; provide support for virtual memorial services, including helping families connect with local faith-based community partners; host online classes on resilience and coping skills; and share information and referrals to state and local agencies as well as other organizations, including legal resources for estate, custody, immigration, or other issues.1

REFERENCES
  1. COVID-19: Red Cross Offers Virtual Care for Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones [news release]. American Red Cross; May 18, 2020. https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/2020/red-cross-offers-virtual-care-for-families-who-have-lost-loved-o.html. Accessed May 21, 2020.
  2. Coronavirus Disease 2019: Cases in the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Updated May 21, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html. Accessed May 21, 2020.
  3. Grieving During the Coronavirus: Advice From a Clinical Psychologist. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; April 16, 2020. https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2020/04/grieving-during-the-coronavirus-advice-from-a-clinical-psychologist/. Accessed May 21, 2020.