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If you knew and loved one of the 500,000-plus people lost to the pandemic, here’s what might be going on in your brain right now.

Credit: sdominick / Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

Some things are just sad

Photo: PictureNet Corportation/Getty Images

Five words was all it took to break through the blockade that surrounded my heart, freeing it to feel legitimate pain and eventually inspiring it to let go:

The ongoing tragedy has not engendered the same kind of visible mourning as past national tragedies — and it’s harming mental health

“Somos La Luz (We Are The Light)” by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

In May, artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada began painting a 20,000-square-foot mural of a Queen’s, New York doctor named Ydelfonso Decoo. A pediatrician nearing retirement, Decoo worked on the front lines in New York City this spring and ultimately succumbed to Covid-19.

A hospice social worker’s advice on how to process

A woman mourns at a memorial service for a family member who died after contracting Covid-19 in Seat Pleasant, Maryland on April 13, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone dies — and yet, no one wants to talk about that. Even as we continue to find ourselves in a pandemic with a death toll so destabilizing, so different from the familiar I face as a hospice and palliative care social worker. We’re dying, and we’re grieving, and there is no end in sight. I write this as a call to soothe — to offer a space to this grim, untranslatable experience.

In my work, I have witnessed thousands of deaths over the past 21 years — all within a 30-mile radius of Los Angeles. I have sat with…

A loving doctor, husband, father, and grandfather was lost. I won’t let his death be in vain.

Two hundred thousand is an unfathomable number — a numbing number — but there is real human pain behind it.

Covid-19 restrictions make grieving more difficult. Here are expert-backed tips for supporting people through the death of a loved one

Illustration: Jo Zixuan Zhou

In early August, I was driving from one Georgia suburb to another to attend a restricted, masked funeral for my best friend’s father — if you can call it a funeral at all. He was immunocompromised and died of Covid-19. At the service, his body was covered with a white sheet and sparse flower arrangements. My friend and her mother sat alone in the front of the state room, facing the body. They wore masks, shields, and gloves. As is customary in my friend’s Hindu culture, both mother and daughter dressed in all white.

Illustration: Kate Dehler

My Therapist Says

You need to grieve before you can be productive again

There’s a square on my Google calendar that I spangled with capital letters and exclamation points years ago: March 24, 2020. It was the publication day for my second novel, The Herd, and as the day approached, all the stars seemed to be aligning: The thriller (a whodunit set in an exclusive all-female co-working space) made loads of most-anticipated lists, got stellar advance reviews, and seemed to be picking up momentum. I’d spent weeks coordinating a six-city book tour, reaching out to bookstores six months early to get on their packed events calendars. As a novelist, I get very few…

I didn’t just lose a tiny, seven-pound chihuahua. I lost a family member.

Credit: Jamie Garbutt/Getty Images

“Hi, my dog died. Could I possibly have an extension on this assignment?”

The Health Diaries

The author of ‘No Happy Endings’ and host of the podcast ‘Terrible, Thanks for Asking’ shares a day in her life

There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.

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