If you are irritable, less motivated, sad, or even angry, depressed, you are not alone. With loss there is a grief reaction. Not only are we dealing with loss of life, loss of mobility, choice, sense of safety, during this current time our emotional reactions are compounded by anxiety & fear.
It’s easy not to recognize less obvious, existential and secondary losses but important to honor our own losses even if those losses seem small compared to others. Left unrecognized grief can negatively impact our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Recognize your losses
We can’t deal with, or heal, what we aren’t aware of
Consider how you feel when you think of these losses:
- Social connections – One of the most impactful loss is the separation from friends and family.
- Separation from colleagues – Our work environment can be like a second family.
- Habits and habitat – The world outside our homes no longer safe and we can’t engage in our usual routines and rituals. No matter how mundane – from getting coffee at the local café, driving to work, or picking up kids from school – routines help define your sense of self in the world.
- Assumptions and security– the spread of the virus has upended assumption we once counted on. And so we’re losing our sense of safety in the world and our assumptions about ourselves,
- Trust in our systems– When government leaders, agencies, medical systems, religious bodies, the stock market and corporations fail or are unable to meet expectations, we can feel betrayed and emotionally unmoored.
- Sympathetic loss for others – Even if you’re not directly affected by a specific loss, you may feel other’s, grief including: displaced workers, health care workers, the homeless, people barred from visiting relatives in nursing homes, hospitals, or those who have already lost friends and family and to those who will.
4 ways to “honor” your grief
Grief is not a problem to be solved
- Communicate & Share your stories
If you “bottle up” emotion your brain neurochemistry can negatively impact you physically and emotionally.
Communicate with your friends or family about your experience.
Pick up the phone, send an e-mail. Ask to share your feelings and give permission/direction to NOT give or receive advice nor “fix” anything.
Gather a group of friends to share losses together on social media.
- Write – Writing, whether it’s a journal or just a piece of paper, is another way to express, identify and acknowledge loss and grief.
- Create – Make a sculpture, draw a picture or create a ceremonial object that symbolizes your feelings. This is not about making art but about expressing yourself.
- Ritual – Do breathing exercises to symbolically blow away sadness, fear or anger. Find a rock to throw away. Write feelings on paper and rip it up.
Regular meditation gives you time to slow down your thinking. Take several deep, breaths throughout the day to lower stress.
- Be open to joy & gratitude – Look for it in small places – the chirping of a bird, a funny video.