The sad science of pandemic grief

November 19, 2020, 7:47 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

I want to talk about grief.

We all experience grief in different ways given the circumstances and our own personalities. Grieving someone who you may have never met isn’t going to be the same thing as mourning a loved one. Disruptions to your daily life, such as canceling funerals or weddings or any number of social occasions, takes a toll. So how does that all that add up during a pandemic?

In a year filled with suffering, I had the opportunity to speak with an expert on grief and bereavement this week.

“We all continue to be at risk for death and loss, the two things we fear the most,” says Dr. Katherine Shear, the founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Complicated Grief, of the COVID pandemic in an interview with Fortune.

“9/11 was traumatic, but it was over after a while. This is just ongoing, and it’s turned our lives upside down,” she said.

Shear and I spoke about all manners of grief. The temporary kind. The lasting kind (a particularly concerning one in times of malaise). The kinds that present themselves in all sorts of weird ways, since grief has a weird way of playing on our heartstrings.

“Grief is such a powerful thing to the specific loss that you’ve had,” said Shear. “The steps for recovering aren’t orderly.”

“The steps for recovering aren’t orderly.” Words to remember from a literal grief expert.

Read on for the day’s news, and see you next week.

Sy Mukherjee


Capsule and Virtuwell team up on digital health deal. Digital pharmacy firm Capsule has teamed up with Virtuwell, which helps serve more than one million patients with common conditions such as pink eye and sinus infections, among others, to create a joint digital care platform. The companies announced on Thursday the telemedicine venture is both smart business and good for patients in the long run. "Together with Capsule, Virtuwell provides a fully digital and seamless continuum of care that ensures consumers get what they need - effortlessly and safely,” said Eric Kinariwala, founder and CEO of Capsule.

Pear Therapeutics launches digital insomnia app. You getting sleepy? There's an app for that. Digital health firm Pear Therapeutics has launched a new application for patients with chronic insomnia. If Pear's clinical study readouts are to be believed, it's... Some pretty serious snoozing. The "program reduced the amount of time it took to fall asleep by 45% while cutting the amount of time awake at night by 52%," according to FierceBiotech(FierceBiotech)


Pfizer, Moderna expected to apply for emergency vaccine authorization in coming weeks. Two companies are well on their ways to filing for emergency FDA authorization for their COVID vaccines. Pfizer posted its own encouraging information last week; Moderna responded in kind. There's still plenty of data to wade through, such as whether the vaccines are more effective for certain populations than others. Still, good news is good news. The next step: Figuring out exactly how the distribution process will work (much more on that in the coming days and weeks). (BioPharma Dive)


FDA clears its first rapid, at-home COVID test. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared Lucira Health's at-home coronavirus test, the first of its kind which can ostensibly return results within 30 minutes and doesn't require the use of health care professionals. This is an emergency authorization, not a full approval. But what makes it special is that it can actually be administered fully at home by allowing users to collect nasal swabs and then analyze them with a portable device which can provide the results. (ModernHealthcare)


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