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by Lauren Lia, Director of Clinical Services
We most often associate grief with death of a loved one. Unfortunately, they are a reality of this time and the coronavirus pandemic. Many are experiencing the pain of losing loved ones, even as the ways we typically comfort one another and gather when someone passes has changed.
There are many other losses to acknowledge during this time as well: Loss of celebrations and milestones like a wedding or prom. Loss of freedom and independence when we are used to being on the go. Loss of routine and financial security. Loss of human connection from the hugs of extended family or seeing co-workers in person. And these are all legitimate.
There’s been a flood of emotions as this crisis has unfolded. Depending on the day (honestly the minute), we have waves of overwhelming feelings. With so much uncertainty, it’s comforting to be able to label our experiences. This is truly a time of grief and loss for everyone.
The grieving process, first developed by Kubler Ross, has 5 stages.
- Denial – Pretending like what’s happening isn’t real and pushing away our feelings.
- Anger– In attempting to regain control of the situation, often directed at others or even ourselves. While grief does not cause abuse, this can make this time especially dangerous for those experiencing domestic abuse.
- Bargaining– Trying to hold on to a sense of control such as bargaining with a higher power or rationalizing behaviors.
- Sadness– Includes not only this emotion but lack of energy and pulling away from loved ones. Often more complicated if one struggles with depression.
- Acceptance– Even though we wish circumstances are different we come to terms with the reality and move forward in a meaningful way. We may have to choose acceptance over and over and that’s okay!
These stages aren’t linear and we tend to move between these stages. Experiences of loss now commonly stir up past losses and trauma. Wounds that had healed frequently come back with renewed fervor.
What can you do?
- Acknowledge the feelings.
Our feelings are important during this time. When we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be upset about missing a holiday with family because others have it much worse, we block our process of healing. Keep a perspective of gratitude while still acknowledging how you feel.
- Practice healthy coping.
It may be tempting to fall into unhealthy patterns such as self-isolating, an extra glass of wine or letting our health slide. Doing things that are best for us often takes more energy initially but pays off for our emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness in the end. Choose or discover the coping skills that work for you.
- Give ourselves and other some self-compassion.
We may not be producing in our job at the same rate or be able to help our community the way we want. These are extraordinary times, so be gentle with yourself and give permission to be as you are. Even repeating these words to yourself can be powerful.
- Stay in the present moment.
There is uncertainty in what the future will bring. Take life moment by moment to stay grounded.
If you are struggling, reach out to Safe+Sound Somerset’s call or text hotline at 866-685-1122. We are available to listen, offer support and provide referrals. The NJ Mental Health hotline for COVID-19 is also available at 1-866-202-HELP (4357).