In my post from 3/21/20, I addressed my concerns of the impact of this pandemic on those who are grieving the death of a loved one, and briefly mentioned that we grieve all losses, not those just to death. Now, I feel it’s important to address the grief we are all experiencing but may be hesitant to say out loud. For me, saying something out loud makes it real and then I have to face the fears and emotions that come along with that reality.

We are all grieving losses with this crisis, both globally and individually, and as no two people have the same fingerprint, we also have our unique grief-print. We grieve in our own way with no comparison to others. Grief demands expression whether emotionally, physically, behaviorally, cognitively, or spiritually, and needs to be acknowledged and experienced.  No one wants to feel the emotions of grief, they’re upsetting, sad, and negative, but it’s necessary in order to adjust to the world as it is today. Even when this is over, our lives will never be the same and we have to grieve what’s been lost while we adapt to the present.

When a loss has occurred due to the death of a loved one, survivors need to be able to talk about their loved one and their grief reactions without judgment or advice. When we see someone grieving and hurting, we want them to feel better and want them to be as they were before the loss. We want to fix them. We can’t! Anyway, their grief isn’t ours to fix, it’s their grief and it’s theirs to experience.

The same is true for nondeath-related losses. When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, for example, the person is advised how to think and feel about their diagnosis. They are told to think positive, otherwise their recovery could be affected. Again, this is well meaning, but that person has the right to say how they’re thinking and feeling! Afterall, it’s their cancer, their fears, their grief, facing the uncertainty of a life-threatening disease. When the person is able to acknowledge and embrace their fears without judgment, they will be able to think more positive when they’re ready. Otherwise, it’s all just a lie and the person suffers in silence.

What does help! That’s a really good question. Of course, the main way to cope in my opinion, is to limit time social media and watching the news. I notice my anxiety and feelings of hopelessness escalate when I scroll through FB or watch the news too much. I know this is our current situation, but it can be overwhelming to read everything that is going on.

A few days ago, I participated in a Zoom meeting with colleagues, and prior to the meeting the facilitator asked us to share how we were doing with self-care during this time. We had a great discussion and the question brought to my awareness that I wasn’t necessarily doing a great job with self-care. If that topic was not discussed, I still would not be aware of my lack of it today.

With that being said, a good way to cope is to be able to be honest with yourself and others on how you’re being affected emotionally. There does tend to be hesitation about bringing up how you’re feeling, mainly because of the intensity of the situations on FB and the news, but again, it’s ok to say your fears and concerns. During our meeting, I noticed no one wanted to go first, myself included. I had the assumption that because I am a therapist, I should have it all together. I wasn’t going to be the first one to admit I wasn’t. When the conversation got going, it felt really good to be honest and receive that much needed support and encouragement.

So, you ask what helps, and my advice is to share and receive the support from each other instead of withdrawing and isolating yourself. Be the person who brings up the topic, any topic about the situation, and you’ll be surprised by the response. Someone has to reach out, be that person.

Laurie Stone, owner of Three Wells Acupuncture Clinic in Morris, has written a blog on her website describing her grief experience with the Coronavirus. It is beautifully written and the reader can identify with how she is feeling. I encourage you to visit her website at:

https://threewellsclinic.com/stages-of-grief/

There are a lot of posts on FB about the frontline workers, those who have the virus now, and those who have recovered, but I read very little, if any, about the grief being experienced with the losses brought upon by this pandemic. Again, I encourage you to visit Laurie’s website and read her grief journey and then write your own story to share with whomever you choose. It takes courage to show vulnerability when grieving the death of a loved one and equally challenging now, out of fear of being judged for being negative. Sharing your grief experience isn’t being negative, it’s being authentic and that is ok.

I invite you to share your grief journey in regard to the uncertainty for the future of the world.

 

Take care, Kathy

We are still seeing clients during this time in my office following CDC guidelines, or via telehealth if preferred. Please reach out if you'd like to schedule an appointment at (815) 416-9036.

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