During these unprecedented times, it is important to recognize that we are all dealing with a number of new and different losses as a result of the Covid19 pandemic.
“Grief,” as defined by the Grief Recovery Institute, “is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind,” and “is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.”
There is a common misconception that grief only occurs after somebody has died. Grief isn’t just about the death of a loved one – it encompasses so many things! There are 40+ losses that might result in grief.
Covid19 has disrupted our lives in every imaginable way. The losses we have experienced as the result of Covid19 are significant and may include some of the following:
- Loss of safety – fear for one’s own safety or the fear for the safety of a loved one
- Loss of routine – working from home, being unable to participate in important activities
- Loss of connection with loved ones, friends, colleagues and co-workers
- Loss of touch and human contact
- Loss of freedom
- Loss of comfort
- Loss of income, work, security
- Loss of a business
- Loss of child care, resulting in the unexpected requirement to oversee or to provide home-schooling for your children
- Loss of predictability, control
- Loss of being able to participate in important events, weddings, graduation ceremonies, religious gatherings etc.
- Loss due to an inability to visit loved ones who may be in care facilities or loved ones who may be dying (regardless of the nature of the illness)
- Loss due to the fact that social distancing requirements may disrupt funeral plans or the ability of family and friends to mourn together
- Loss due to canceled travel plans
- Loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations that cannot be fulfilled at this time
Do you relate to any of the above? Are there any other losses that have impacted your life?
Grief is individual and unique. Despite the fact that two people may have a similar experience, the way they may process their grief may be completely different. Grief may present in any number of ways including:
- Reduced ability to concentrate and to focus
- Emotional or physical exhaustion
- Change in eating/sleeping patterns
- Lower tolerance/patience levels
- Increased levels of frustration, anger
- Increased use of substances (drugs, alcohol)
- Increased levels of gaming, online shopping
- Increased social media usage
- Binge-watching Netflix or Amazon
Grief may present physically as well:
- Pain in the body
- Stomach aches
- Tightness in your chest/throat
You may also find that your window of tolerance has narrowed. Whereas you may normally be able to go through the ebbs and flows of life with relative ease, you may find that you are now overwhelmed, stressed out and more anxious than usual. You may be short-tempered, agitated, restless, irritable, discontent, disengaged, distant, uncommunicative and more rigid.
Whatever you are feeling, please know it is normal and natural given our current circumstances.
It is vital to be able to express your emotional truth with somebody safe for you. That is, somebody who you can talk to who will not analyze, judge or criticize you, somebody who will not try to fix you (because you are not broken). This might be your spouse or another family member, it might be a close friend or colleague, it might be your boss or it might be a professional. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing with someone directly, journal about how you are feeling so you aren’t keeping feelings of anger, fear, frustration, sadness, and anxiety inside, because such feelings are cumulative, and cumulatively negative. They need a safe outlet.
If you have children, they may be struggling with all of this too. They are most certainly feeling the disruption to their normal routines and while they might like being at home with their family, they may miss going to school, to playdates, to their normal activities and so on. If they are older, they might miss seeing their friends, boyfriends/girlfriends. They may also sense worry and fear, if present in the household, or a heightened sense of anxiety. It is imperative that you acknowledge anything that your children may be feeling, that you allow them to express their worries or concerns without minimizing, judging or trying to fix things for them. Listen to what they have to say without being dismissive or without making false promises. Instead of saying, “this virus won’t impact our family,” say “we are doing everything we can to keep our family safe”. Think “we are safe at home” rather than “we are stuck at home.” Share your emotional truth about these challenging times in an age-appropriate way.
Having compassion for yourself and for others is important right now. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
- Don’t compare your losses with the losses that others have experienced
- Don’t minimize or negate your feelings
- You may want to minimize your exposure to the news right now. While it is important to stay current with Covid19 updates, to be inundated with sensationalized news clips, social media posts, and opinions from those with questionable credentials, can be overwhelming. Follow trusted news sources and government websites rather than social media posts.
Here are a few things you may wish to consider as you practice self-care and self-compassion during this time:
- Stay connected to the people who are important in your life by telephone, text, social media, Facetime or Zoom and encourage your children or other family members to do the same
- Check-in on friends, family, and colleagues to see how they are doing, share your emotional truth with them and invite them to do the same, be careful not to judge, criticize or analyze their feelings. There is nothing you can do to fix this situation. Be a heart with ears instead
- Get the rest and the sleep you require every night
- Eat nutritional foods
- Drink water to stay hydrated
- Exercise indoors or go for a walk outside, if permitted, and be vigilant in complying with social distancing requirements
- Notice how you are feeling
- Meditate or practice mindfulness
- Breathe – three deep breaths can help ground you
- Count five things you can see, touch or smell
- Take a bath or a shower
- Try not to take things too personally, the people around you may be struggling too
- Read The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman (available on Amazon or through the Grief Recovery Institute www.griefrecoverymethod.com)
- Read some of the following blog posts: