Resilience Tip: Grief & Resilience

Featuring Dr. Alyson VanAhn from Associated Clinic of Psychology

Grief and resilience: you can have both!

You probably understood that going to work in a senior care facility meant you would experience death more often than people working in other environments. However, expecting this and going through it are quite different things – especially when death rates are (sometimes significantly) higher than usual as we’ve seen during the COVID pandemic.

The grieving process is likely impacting us all as team members in senior care environments, and grief is notorious for having a unique impact on each person. It is also, however, a process that can be a foundation for resilience.

Today, it’s important to know that team members are experiencing grief, that it comes in the form of sadness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety or many other emotions. It also can come with opportunities for positive outcomes for individuals, families and teams.

Bouncing back from persistent loss of any kind may be fostered with some of today’s suggestions for yourself individually and as a team leader in the senior care environment:

  1. In addition to acknowledging grief with yourself and your team, you can find a way to preserve and honor the memory of those who have died. How does your facility honor those who have died? What tradition can you implement to acknowledge the deaths? Moments of silence, names on a card by a special place in the facility are examples. 
  2. We are accustomed to gathering after loved ones die, but this is complicated during COVID-19. How can your team build in ways to communicate favorite memories or anecdotes of a deceased resident? This alone may foster resilience by sharing stories with one another.
  3. How is grief impacting you? Pay attention to whether it feels good to discuss with a trusted other or to divert your attention elsewhere. Either can build resilience and provide a good model for your team members when you share strategies. 

For more information about stress relief during COVID-19, go to

At no charge, you can arrange virtual staff support groups through LeadingAge Minnesota Foundation’s COVID-19 Staff Coping & Support Line project. Contact Terri Foley at or 651-815-8137.

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