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When Self-Isolation Brings Up Grief

3 Ways To Cope During Uncertain Times

As a former caregiver who lost her parent, I can attest that it might.

Social distancing has not only made it harder for all of us to connect with other people and get the essentials, but it’s also made it harder for us to escape our feelings. Stuck in our homes we are relegated to long Netflix-watching, PJ-wearing days. And for those of us who work from home, it means the ability to be a lot more productive without the outside distractions of normal life. But it also means so much more alone time that we can’t help but turn our thoughts inward.

With the constant news streaming day and night with endless Covid-19 updates and conspiracy theory social media posts, I was completely distracted by the upcoming anniversary of my mom’s death. My father passed away when I was 1. I was left with an amazing mother who had the most contagious laugh but also had underlying depression after losing the love of her life. I believe it’s what inevitably led to her heart attack from a deep loneliness inside, which I now as an adult understand. I became her sole caregiver for 5 years, spending 24/7 by her side, caring for all of her needs and endless doctor appointments. She passed away 6 years ago leaving me, an only child alone. Being an adult orphan is not what I expected so young in life. But then life isn’t usually what you expect.

Through these weeks, I didn’t even think of my mom surprisingly – but I attribute it to the overwhelming stress of this catastrophic global news. I was paralyzed in the moment and not thinking about much else. My grief that has been continuing for the last 6 years seemed almost suspended. It’s not until a friend told me her father had passed right before Easter that my thoughts turned to my mom. She had died between Easter and Mother’s Day. Suddenly, thoughts of her danced in my head, and the tears started streaming, bringing with them a week of grief that rendered me hollow.

I expect the months moving forward will bring up more feelings. In my last decade of self-care and self-discovery, here are some lessons I have learned when it comes to grief:

  1. Feelings will come up – at the most inopportune times.

And many of us might consider Covid-19 an inopportune time simply because we can’t escape these thoughts or bury our feelings. There is nowhere to run. But grief is a sticky, complicated emotion that will tug at you as violently as a roller coaster plummeting at 80mph. You will experience the lowest of lows, seemingly out of nowhere. And it will likely be when you need to get something done but are pulled down into a web of sadness. Embrace it as it comes, and know this too shall pass. Let the feelings be because the more you push them down, the more you prevent yourself from healing.

  1. You may feel crazy – and even guilty – at moments.

There’s no denying that feeling happy and laughing one moment and then sobbing uncontrollably the next will have you feeling like you’ve lost your mind. It doesn’t mean you have. It just means you’re human. It’s ok to feel more than okay. You’re not doing your loved one a disservice. They’d want you to be happy and resume your life. One thing I’ve heard many times over and learned is that the length of grieving doesn’t reflect how much you loved someone. So don’t be hard on yourself if you find moments of joy. You should laugh. Life is too short, as you already know too well.

  1. Talk to a therapist virtually.

Whether you already have a therapist or not, you can still find one who can help you navigate the ups and downs of grief during Covid-19. My therapist is currently offering Zoom talk therapy sessions. I also have used and love services like BetterHelp and Talkspace which give you daily or weekly access to a therapist via text, voice, and/or phone who can be your one click away support system during this time.

Ultimately, remember during this time of quarantining, you’re allowed to feel the not so comfortable feelings that may arise. Be kind to yourself. Process them at your own pace whatever that might be, hold space for yourself, and and then resume life. It’s not going anywhere – especially now.

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