Growing up, I always thought that grief was a feeling associated with death. Grief made you feel sad. As I have aged, I have found that grief comes in many forms and arrives at different times in my life.
I now define grief as the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior or circumstances.
So, why is grief so painful and why am I experiencing it now?
Grief is a very natural reaction to loss. It’s universal and at the same time very personal. Yes, we all acknowledge that grief can be brought on by death of a loved one, but it can also be precipitated by the ending of a relationship, job loss, graduation, really it’s the hallmark of the changing in any status.
Right now in the shelter in place/ COVID-19 era, many of us are experiencing a collective loss of the “normal.” We are being pushed out of our comfort zone and routine into a new era that seems unfamiliar and strange. It’s like wearing a new pair of shoes that aren’t comfortable yet and seem to rub in all the wrong places- except everyone is wearing these new shoes and we are all on a never-ending march.
What can we do to make this time easier and preserve well being?
1) Acknowledge your feelings.
Deeply going through the task of feeling is hard work. It can be painful. BUT, it is necessary to go move through all of the feelings to balance and get yourself to health and well being. Allow yourself the grace to feel everything, but also the strength to move past the initial feelings. My father always said that “there is no joke that will make someone laugh forever, nor should there be any event that would make someone cry forever.”
2) Engage in care tasks.
Science has taught us that kindness is a critical element of self-care and serves the giver as well as the receiver. You can engage in kindness towards self as well as kindness towards others. Send out texts or emails to people to stay connecting and caring. Start a video chat group to connect with others. Invest in your learning and education to gain skills for whatever lies ahead. Get good sleep and nutrition.
Be kind and compassionate towards yourself and towards others.
3) Focus on the fundamentals.
In the midst of crisis or grief, we tend to focus on the scariest/worst things all the time. Often we miss the simple beauty or joys. All too frequently, we defer celebration, milestones and happiness as “inappropriate” or not well timed. The fact of the matter is that we all need to hold on to the happiness and joy more resolutely than ever. So, focus on the fundamentals that still exist. The beauty of nature. The joy of that first cup of coffee or tea. Celebrate the small things and the big things as you would have before the grief.
4) Accept (and embrace) the new reality.
Finding success in the “new” can be challenging. The level of unpredictability and uncertainty in a new and constantly evolving environment can be unsettling. But the newness gives us opportunities to captain our own emotions and attitudes. We can forge new habits and practices that may be better in the long run. Once you decide that the new reality is where you are going to focus, you can commit to changes that will allow you to be happier and more fulfilled.
If you find yourself stuck or your situation becomes overwhelming, please reach out to a trained professional for help.
Be well as we all navigate this time.
Originally published on LinkedIn.com