Grief is deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement, something that we have lost or deprived of. Grief is consistent, relentless, unwavering, and unbiased. It knows no boundaries. It is not afraid to get its grips on you whether you are male or female or young or old. It pays zero attention to race, economic status, or your place in society. If you can love, you can lose. And when you lose, you grieve! Grief puts on a display of every emotion we can think of. There is obvious pain and sadness. There is anger why this has happened! There is guilt that we should have done more. There is relief that our loved ones are not suffering. There is happiness with all the wonderful memories we share. This is everyday grief that each and everyone experiences. And then, there is complicated grief.
And now we have Coronavirus and social distancing which is complicating and disenfranchising our grief! We grieve everyday. We lose clients or accounts at work, we lose our keys or cell phones, we lose money in investments, our favorite team loses, and with all of this, it feels like we are losing our mind! Many people fail to recognize the full impact loss plays on our daily lives. Grief is opportunistic looking for any ways to ream havoc in our lives. It mutates and spreads when given opportunities. It also acts as a mortar that binds all of our negative emotions together and tries to embed deep inside our souls. And finally, it promotes alienation from the ones we love and care for by making us want to crawl into a hole by ourselves. It is extremely important to understand that this is everyday grief! Please do NOT associate what I have discussed for the weak, frail, or faint hearted. This is about YOU, and ALL of us!
It is important to understand the fundamentals of grief to recognize how impactful Covid is to our everyday grief. Covid, for practical purposes, has stolen our coping mechanisms for healing from our loss. We can’t gather to mourn the death of our loved ones. As much as some shy away from structure, ritual, and being social, these are basic needs of all of us. When life deals us a huge blow of a loss of a loved one, we need to gather as one to reflect, understand the loss, and begin the healing process. So for practical purposes, we are handcuffed as we try to cope with today’s losses.
So, having knowledge about how grief affects you during these difficult times, what can you do? Here are some broad ideas of what you can do personally.
- Please know that there is not a flowchart to follow. How we grieve is not universal and there is no fool proof way to get out from under it. Yes, there are many commonalities to grief, but what you are facing is as unique as the life you live! So when someone says, “I know how you feel”, they really don’t. They know how they felt in their grief.
- Be kind to yourself. Sounds silly doesn’t it? But it is true. We are our own worst critics and judges. Please don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t think that you simply have to put your big boy or girl pants on and just get through this. Treat yourself how you would treat your best friend, with gentle reassurance, support, and love. After all, you are your own best advocate.
- Talk and open up when ready. You do not need to toughen up. You need to lean on those you love you. You are NOT a burden to others. Give them the gift of helping you! Allow yourself to be vulnerable and to feel the emotions. Ask yourself what actual feelings come to the surface when you think of your loved one. If you say, “It’s just so lonely and quiet at night now.” Dive deeper into that. Think about what you are actually feeling. Write them down and think about them. Find out truly what your heart is feeling. Name it.
- So many emotions from both sides of the spectrum are being felt during this time. How can you be profoundly sad at the same time you are happy with so many great memories? Feeling like you are losing your mind is normal.
- Please just feel what you are feeling. I’ve been there. Just wanted to take the edge off, right? Glass of wine, a couple beers, or a shot of whiskey seem like an antidote. But actually, they are by themselves a depressant! They only temporarily mask the symptoms. Besides having a headache or feeling groggy the next morning because one turned into too many. Don’t add a depressant to address the situation. The same goes for taking a couple pills from a friend to help you sleep. If you haven’t been prescribed medication for anxiety or depression, please don’t take them. These medicines are prescribed after careful consideration along with other measures such as counseling, etc. Pills alone are not the answer. After a loss, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
No one will argue that grief is easy. It seems daunting and difficult. But here is what you need to know. You will heal, albeit with hard work and as a result, a deeper awareness and appreciation of who you really are. On both a personal and professional level, I get this. Eighteen years ago, my world was turned upside down with the murder of my brother. I experienced every emotion imaginable. But being that I work with grief everyday, I had a handle on grief, right?? Wrong!! I was so sad, hurt, angry, scared, revengeful, and terrified. I tried to play detective while serving other families at the funeral home, while neglecting my own home and trying to figure everything out. I became cynical, sarcastic, and was annoyed by those around me. Finally, when I blew a gasket when the temperature didn’t reach 40, only 38, is when I realized I needed some help. With the help of great counseling and pastoral care, I not only came out of my funk, I grew spiritually and emotionally. I tell you this, not because I’m looking for any accolades, rather an inspiration that you can do this under extreme heartbreaking conditions.
With grief, loss can be seen as a four letter word, but it can also be seen as other four letter words, love or heal. Recovery will be healthier once recognized for what it is, versus what it isn’t. Realization gives you the opportunity to use your skills to take control of your grief, process, learn, and heal. As I did, sometimes you need a professional to organize your tool chest. Counseling is not a weakness, rather strength. If you feel you would like help processing your grief, please let us know. We are here to help. Our grief therapists would be honored to walk with you in your journey.