With all that is happening in the world it can be hard to know how to feel. You may be asking yourself questions like: Where do I fall on the spectrum from terrified to calm? How to cope? How do I talk to my children about what is happening? A strange phenomenon might arise for us as we contemplate the effects of Covid-19 in which we are forced to simultaneously hold points of privilege with points of grief and despair. For example, you might feel grateful to still have a job that you can work remotely and also feel miserable working from home. You might have had to cancel a trip you have been planning for years and yet feel grateful to not be stranded away from home. You might feel grateful to have good health but be devastated to miss out on attending important life transition events like funerals, weddings, baby showers, and birthday parties. There might be days that feel fine to hunker down at home and other days that feel cooped up and isolated. You might feel lucky that Covid-19 seems to spare kids while also heartbroken explaining to your 4-year-old why they cannot see anyone on their birthday or why they have to miss out on the very first event they have ever been invited to.
It is important for us to get to make space for grieving even the little things that we have to miss during this time of physical separation and uncertainty. Of course, it is important to recognize that many people are also grieving the deaths of loved ones to this novel disease. Or who are worried for their loved ones who are currently undergoing treatment and whom they cannot visit. I have personally felt the effects of not being able to care for family members who are dealing with health crises in other places around the nation, and been unable to help them as it is not safe or smart to travel to them. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to cancel or postpone a wedding, or to labor and birth a baby and not be allowed to have even your partner in the room with you. No matter how trivial seeming, grief always gets to take up space. We should stop comparing losses as this is not helpful and perpetuates the unhealthy ideal in our society of minimizing emotion. While it is unimaginable to be grieving a loved one’s death from Covid-19, it is also awful to have to cancel your baby shower or graduation or simply to not be able to grab dinner with friends. It has been incredible to see the world response and the resilience within and yet we cannot deny the lost layers that come with needing to physically distance.
I am writing today to encourage everyone to allow themselves to grieve and to take note of the privileges and beauty in the world during this very challenging time. If you are a teacher missing your students’ faces or realizing you will not be able to conduct a classroom activity that is a staple for your curriculum, grieve those things. If you are a parent, grieve for your children who are feeling disconnected from their peers. If you are an extrovert, grieve the feeling of sitting close to other humans or striking up conversations with strangers at the grocery store. If you are retiring and have had to cancel your goodbye celebration after decades of hard work, let yourself grieve that.
Of course, we should also recognize that grief predating this crisis does not stop during this Covid-19 period. Many people out there were already grieving difficult and complex losses, and those things continue. Covid-19 safety procedures may spark feelings of emotional isolation. Check in with loved ones whom you know are already grieving and try to find creative ways to connect. Many social media platforms have ways to video chat and there are others like zoom.com that are allowing people to meet remotely for free. Have dinner with a friend online. Mail them a care package and check in over a virtual cup of tea. Remember that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
Tips for grieving:
- Write: Do not try to journal or write in a way where the finished product at all matters. Simply put your thoughts and feelings to paper and let yourself “word vomit” onto the page. The idea is getting it all out of your body
- Creative Outlets: Music, dance, poetry, art, etc. If you have any creative hobbies you enjoy, or ever have enjoyed, now is the time. Again, try not to focus on the product but rather the process.
- Body Movement: Most people feel it is helpful to move through their grief process by physical outlets. This can be anything from stretching to heavy-duty exercise. Again, try to listen to your body and lead by what feels good and right for you.
- Talk it Out: While not for everyone, lots of people feel better after putting words to their emotions. Find a loved one who will just listen and share your struggles. Go back to therapy. Have a virtual vent session.
- Self care: Nurture yourself with things like walks, baths, lotion, candles, and anything you find soothing.
- Try to suspend self-judgement: Grief can feel like you are going crazy as it brings up many conflicting and confusing emotions. Instead of judging yourself, try just being curious to what is coming up for you and remembering that it is likely very normal.
This is truly an unprecedented event and it is affecting nearly every facet of our daily lives. Allow yourself to feel how you feel and honor the grief in a way that feels manageable to you. Most importantly during this time, try to make space for the vast range of emotions we are all feeling these days. It can be difficult to remember that this is temporary. There is no way of knowing how long it will last, but we will one day get to resume a life we are more used to. We can dream of the day we get to hug one another again, attend milestone celebrations together, and gather in vast numbers to root for our favorite team. We can try our best to stay emotionally connected while being physically apart. I have great hope that this will leave us all in a place where we can cherish what we do have while grieving all we have lost.