Grief is the normal and natural reaction to a loss of all kinds, including job loss, illness or death, according to officials at AARP, whose mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has made grieving much more difficult. Times of mourning and grieving are often isolating and distressing. Along with grief usually comes expressions of sorrow, often to try and lift a grieving individual’s spirit.
However, a recently published report noted that the greeting card aisle is offering a snapshot of the toll of the novel coronavirus has had on retailers who are struggling to meet demand for sympathy cards.
“Sympathy cards are selling out,” one anonymous card maker told The New York Times. “It just seems just about everyone knows someone who has died.”
CVS, a pharmacy chain and one of the nation’s largest sellers of greeting cards, said it was seeing “higher demand” for sympathy cards than most other types of greeting cards and experiencing shortages in certain stores.
Shoppers across the country have posted on social media that their local Winn Dixie or ShopRite was running out of cards.
On Etsy, the online marketplace for crafts and jewelry, searches for sympathy cards from March 1 to April 17 more than doubled from a year earlier, according to The Times.
Some of the shortages have been caused by distribution problems.
Pharmacies and grocery chains, focused on keeping their shelves stocked with household staples, are not allowing card companies to come into the stores and restock regularly.
With stores running out and people unable to leave their homes, many card sales have moved online and are at record levels, suppliers say.
“We have created ‘Encouragement Card Bundles,’ in which we offer five notecards, with stamps included, that we deliver directly to our customers. They have been very popular,” said Stefanie MacDonald, owner of Halifax Paper Hearts, a small stationery studio.
“We are still seeing our sympathy cards sell when people are picking up groceries,” MacDonald said.
In the face of the outbreak, AARP has continued to provide information and resources to help older people and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus and prevent it spreading to others.
Additionally, officials at AARP said bereavement, the grief and mourning due to the loss of a loved one, is made more complicated by the necessary constraints placed on everyone by the pandemic.
Many typical coping mechanisms are unavailable during these times, making processing grief much more difficult.
“Traditional memorial services are not an option, nor is hugging a friend, sharing a meal, or even saying goodbye to your loved one in person,” Elizabeth Carter, Erwin Tan and Jennifer Peed wrote for AARP the Magazine.
They said the pandemic’s universal stressors can exacerbate grief.
In Arlington, Virginia, Sending Kindness, a group of volunteers that send handwritten sympathy cards and grief resources to people across the country who request one, said their cards are free and families of those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus can request a card be sent on their behalf.
Sending Kindness has already mailed 100 cards.
“Especially in circumstances like this, you might not always know the loved one well or even the family that well,” said group founder Amanda Shaffer. “You don’t know what kind of religious background they may have had. There’s all sorts of family structures. So it’s important to find something that’s all-encompassing.”