Trapped by fear.
Trapped by anger.
My mind keeps...
‘‘What if this happens?’’
‘‘What if that happens?’’
‘‘Where will I find those?’’
‘‘When will I see them?’’
‘‘How do I honor the memory?’’
‘‘How do I maintain my religious traditions?’’
‘‘Why do I feel like this?’’
‘‘When will it end?’’
‘‘How do I make it stop?’’
‘‘Does anyone understand?’’
This is loss.
Loss cares not for you,
But you care for it.
Loss ignores the rules,
But forces new rules upon you.
Loss seems so simple,
But feels so complex.
Loss feels like a master
Until you learn
That you can sit with it.
When we think of grief, we often think of the sadness individuals experience when someone they care about passes away, but to think of grief in this way is to limit it. Grief is anger, irritability, confusion, difficulty concentrating, disillusionment, guilt, anxiety, and many other feelings. Grief can be experienced physically, as well, with headaches, bellyaches, lumps in our throats if we want to cry, tightness in our chests, etc. Grief is experienced while both anticipating a death and following a death, but it is also experienced while anticipating or following any kind of loss. And that makes grief both an individual and group experience these days as we each experience losses unique to our lives and share losses with our communities and the world. Most importantly grief, or the experience of loss, is FLUID, which adds to the feelings of instability and unpredictability that are so prevalent in the world right now.
It is easy, especially in Western culture, to invalidate our own experiences. We tell ourselves that what we are upset about is ‘‘a first world problem’’ (like not being able to get your hair or nails done), that ‘‘someone has it worse,’’ or even that we ‘‘should just get over it.’’ However, these sayings we have about our individual emotional experiences are not only unproductive, but also harmful. Now, in the face of a global crisis, we need to be acknowledging our feelings and our losses, no matter how small, ‘‘first-world’’ or ‘‘illogical’’ as they may seem. We need to be champions of our own validation, and we need to be acceptors of others’ experiences and changes.
In this time of uncertainty and change, practice awareness. Get to know yourself. Explore your losses, your strengths, your ingenuity to adapt, your resources, and your gains that have shown through the COVID-19 experience. Sit with grief and notice how you can stand up again. Acknowledge grief, and find how it can become an extension of you, rather than you an extension of it.
- Some losses to validate to yourself and/or others might include:
- Loss of normalcy
- Loss of connection, ‘‘normal’’ social interaction, and support systems
- Loss of resources or access to resources
- Loss of faith
- Loss of mobility
- Loss of meaning
- Loss of certainty of the future or dreams
- Loss of job
- Loss of financial security
- Loss of food
- Loss of basic goods
- Loss of housing (for those the government couldn’t respond to fast enough)
- Loss of routine or structure
- Loss of lifestyle
- Loss of quality or “hands on” education
- Loss of childcare
- Loss of sense of safety
- Loss of freedom
- Loss of a loved one
- Physical death (including pregnancy loss)
- Death of who the person was (i.e., to forms of dementia, especially as isolation in older adults is a risk for depression which can appear to be the development of dementia)
- Connection/interactions with loved ones
- Loss of space and boundaries
- Loss of self-care routines (e.g., getting hair or nails done and access to wellness activities such as the gym, massage therapy, acupuncture or chiropractor)
- Loss of important celebrations or ceremonies or traditions (e.g., quinceañera, funeral or memorial service or celebration of life, Easter, Ramadan, weekly hangouts with friends, church services, mosque, temple)
- Loss of mental health services
- Loss of sleep or family time (shout out to our first responders, politicians, researchers, scientists, medical personnel, and grocery/food prep employees who are working extra hard to keep us safe and cared for)
Once you have sat with your grief, then you can find ways to adapt. Adaptations might look something like this:
- Social interactions: technology (phone calls, FaceTime, texting, social media, Zoom, etc), drive-by parades for birthdays (friends getting together and caravaning in their cars to drop off gifts or sing happy birthday), door dash (drop off something to brighten someone’s day or meet their needs), order take out and roll the windows down and talk to your friend from opposite cars, send care packages, write letters
- Exercise: YouTube workouts, apps, walk, run, dance party at home or in your yard, jump rope, push-ups, burpees, dips with a chair, have a family member put pressure on your shoulders for resistance during squats
- Listing your gains or positive thoughts: intentional moments with family, intentional moments with your faith, time for those cleaning projects you always say you’ll do, new hobbies and renewal of old hobbies
- Resources: See a resource, share a resource!! Those who need the resources the most are the least likely to be aware of them; make sure children in your neighborhood have eaten that day; check in on your older neighbors (all while practicing ‘‘social distancing,’’ of course)
- Entertainment: reading, writing, art, legos, backyard obstacle courses, drama nights, dance parties, in-home or backyard trick shots or mini golf courses, puzzles, games, movies
- Homeschooling: structure (have a set start and end time, schedule breaks), if you have one child, find work you can do near them so they don’t feel stuck alone doing non-preferred tasks, limit technology use (no phones, tv, video games, etc until school is done), incentives (if school is completed by x time, you get to pick a movie for the night; create a ‘‘prize’’ bucket with a ticket or tally system for completion of assignments)
Grief is fluid. Grief is complex. Grief appears to hit you out of nowhere, but the thing is, grief is experienced on an emotional level. And emotions need motion. So if you’re not a talker, get up and move. If you are a talker, put your losses into words. Journal. Cry. Do what feels right to you, but acknowledge your emotions and let them out.