“Why can’t I sleep?” “Where are my glasses?” “Why can’t I focus?” “Where did I put my keys?”
If lately you have been asking these questions and more, the reason may be unrecognized grief. Yes, grief. COVID-19 has triggered the grief response in us:
- We are having trouble focusing on things we normally do
- We may be sleeping much less or more than usual
- We may be expressing feelings of anger
- We may be irritable
- We may be sad or depressed
- We may suffer from headaches, upset stomach or other physical issues
- We may be fatigued or have a loss of energy and drive
- We may be overeating or drinking, or turning to other addictive tendencies to cope with our anxiety
- We may want to talk about the pandemic incessantly, or avoid it altogether
We know that all of these responses to grief can occur after the loss of a loved one, and in fact we have lost many to COVID-19. But there are a multitude of events that can fall under the umbrella of “loss” and that number has increased exponentially during this pandemic.
We have lost our sense of safety. We have lost our freedoms. We have missed births, marriages, final good-byes and funerals. We have missed birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, graduations, and faimly vacations. We no longer view our medical, educational, financial and social institutions as reliable and stable. Job loss is staggering and we don’t know what will open and what will close permanently. We have lost the feeling of control over our life.
Our world has become unpredictable, we can’t trust it and so, we anticipate the worst. We are beset by anxiety and fear. Parents worry they can’t protect their children and children worry they can’t protect their parents. With no end date in sight, we don’t know what to do. We feel we have lost ourselves. We feel we have lost one another.
But this friends is not the time to throw your hands up in defeat. Grief is not an end, it is the beginning of the road to healing and recovery. When we grieve well we develop resilience and grow stronger as human beings. So let’s get started. Here are some tips for “Living Through Loss” and grieving well.
- Recognize what’s going on – COVID-19 has shown us the obstacles in dealing with the invisible. When we realize that grief is what we are experiencing, our situation is no longer unknown. Life becomes somewhat more predictable and allows us to begin the process of healing and moving forward.
- Today let’s begin focusing on what we CAN do – The are so many things we cannot do as a result of COVID-19, and they tend to loom large. Focusing on things we CAN do, gives us energy and purpose. We can take walks, try new recipes, clean out that closet you never got to, or start a garden. Learn something new. One friend and her husband have been taking a drive every weekend to places they have never been before in their state. Be creative.
- Wherever possible stick to your normal routine – Healthy eating, sleeping and exercise routines are important to maintain. Some aspects of life, like working from home, require new routines, but once established it’s important to stick to them.
- Stay connected with family and friends – We can connect with family and friends on all sorts of media and can even visit with neighbors over the back yard fence. We may feel like we have nothing new to say, but say it anyway!
- Allow for healthy distractions – If we are to heal and move forward we need breaks from our grief to refresh and re-energize ourselves for the journey. Listening to music, picking up a new book, working on a jigsaw puzzle, baking for a neighbor all help our brain refocus. One friend shops and runs errands for a neighbor who is undergoing chemotherapy and is too at risk to get out to do those things.
- Begin the process of acceptance – Acceptance is the only way through the grief process. It’s not saying that things are fine. It’s saying that this is the reality of the situation, and I will work to make the best of it. Acceptance is a choice. Do I continue fighting the reality of the situation, or do I accept my reality and take my first step forward?
The Bible says, blessed are they who patiently endure trials, for their rewards will be great. (James 1:12) Our faith and resilience will surely grow during the challenges of this storm and its grieving process.
Praying we will all, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (Eph. 6:10)