It’s been nearly a year since Julie Horowitz-Jackson’s mother, Arlene, died of Covid-19 in a nursing facility in Philadelphia. “What hit me recently is that the world is opening back up, and my mom’s still dead,” Horowitz-Jackson says.
At this point in the Covid-19 pandemic, as vaccines get rolled out in the United States and around the globe, there is a glimmer of hope that life will safely start shifting back to “normal” in the coming months. But so many people, like Horowitz-Jackson, are still working through their grief, and it won’t just disappear when the virus does. Horowitz-Jackson, 51, says she was coping well with the loss of her mom until recently, when, in Chicago, where she lives, she saw many people out and about, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in large crowds. “I get angry,” she says. “I get angry that people aren’t taking it seriously.”
With over 550,000 reported Covid-19 deaths in the US and 2.8 million worldwide, a massive grief crisis is upon us — with large, unaddressed mental health and economic implications.
“For a large share of people, these [losses] lead to bouts of prolonged grief disorder and depression,” says Ashton Verdery, a Penn State sociologist who studies the societal costs of bereavement. “But also they have huge impacts on their finances, on their employment, on their relationships, and on all kinds of aspects of thriving in the world.”
And new research here provides a broad window onto the lasting scope of our national tragedy.
“These losses that are felt now will be felt for some time to come — even individuals who aren’t born yet will potentially be missing these relatives who might have been alive during their formative years,” says Mallika Snyder, a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley who is also working on estimates with colleagues of the “excess bereavement” felt in the United States and other countries this year.