Dealing with grief in unprecedented times
Apart from losing our freedom by being in quarantine and lockdown, we are also losing our work, our businesses, and sadly some family members to the virus.
One of the most difficult things to deal with, is when a loved one is taken to hospital and family members are not allowed to accompany them. We understand why this is, but we can’t grasp it on an emotional level.
It raises all sorts of insecurities and anxiety with in us. We are put on high alert, and go into “fight or flight’ mode. Our adrenaline and cortisol is pumping around the body, as if we were being chased by a sabre-tooth tiger. This is a normal human reaction to trauma, and we have to know how best to deal with it.
Trying to lower our blood-pressure and anxiety is key here. Take some time out to be, or go for a walk or just sit and breathe. I talk about breathing a lot. The effects of breathing deeply are often over-looked by us, because we just do it naturally. It’s not lost on me either, that the virus changes our ability to breathe. Our lungs become like a wet sponge, heavy and wet. While we are healthy we can breathe, and can do it often.
Stop for a moment, breathe deeply into your stomach and slowly exhale. Count for 3 breaths on the intake, pause for a count of 2, and release on a long out breath for a count of 6. Repeat 5 times. As we breathe out, we are releasing the chemicals of cortisol and adrenaline, which are held in the top part of our lungs. This helps decrease our anxiety.
Below I outline the stages of grief, which maybe helpful.
7 Stages of Grief
- Shock and Denial: Be prepared for Grief to play out in many ways. You’ll firstly be in shock – the body feels paralysed, or weak – maybe your brain is working overtime, but your body has a hard time keeping up with it. Denial – you can’t quite believe it’s happening and it you just can’t get it to make any sense.
- Anger and bargaining. Anger is a tricky one and it comes out in so many ways. You feel anger at the world, you hit out at everything, it’s everything outside that is at fault. You over-react at the smallest of things, often things that are inconsequential normally. Your anger often flares up at a loved one or a stranger, you shout and then you feel bad. Just be aware and notice where it arises. If you’ve spoken to someone, in a way you regret…. don’t beat yourself up, just apologise and let them know you’re grieving.
- Bargaining – here we start to say things like “If I hadn’t had done or said “x” it wouldn’t have happened.” Or, we start to bargain with an outside source, often God or the Universe. For example “I’ll do this, if you help me get through this”. This is a normal part, so just go with it.
- Depression: We spiral down and feel emotionally and physically low. We have no zest for life and everything is an effort.
- Upward Turn: We start to come out of depression, and feel more inclined to start doing things and being with people
- Working Through: This is where we start to analyse what has happened and work through it. Often at this point you’re ready to talk to a therapist or a friend and work it through and begin to reconcile with your thoughts and emotions.
- Acceptance and Hope: Finally we begin to accept the situation, and begin to find hope again. This means that we will still feel and miss the person, or situation we have lost, but we can live with it easier and the pain points are less intense.
We react differently
Its worth noting that everyone is different when it comes to grief. It’s not linear, and often we think we are going mad with it. You may feel it deeper, or not as deep as another member of your family. We can fall back and forth into the different stages, just when we think we have left one stage, we can have a relapse. Again, a normal part of the grieving process.
The situation with Covid-19 is not easy, especially if you cannot be with your loved ones, and say your goodbyes. I suggest writing or journaling your thoughts and feelings, as this helps to get them out of your head. Speak to them as if they can hear you and hold the intention, that they can. Write an email to the hospital, and ask the staff to read it to your loved one. They say hearing is the last thing that goes before someone dies. Ask them to play their favourite music. Where the staff are busy, they are also aware of how important to be with someone and show humanity.
Ways to support yourself and self heal
- Eating well – nourish yourself with food which will nourish your body and help you through this difficult time. I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat.
- Sleep – you may feel it difficult to sleep and it is important to get as much sleep as you can, as this helps the body heal. On the other hand, you might feel incredibly exhausted and want to sleep lots. If this is the case, do go with it.
- Move – try to get out for your daily walk. If you’re also in isolation, do some stretches, or online movement video. For e.g. There’s a 7-minute Qi Gong video on YouTube and many Yoga videos. Movement helps with depression, even if you don’t feel like doing anything, it’s good to uplift your emotions and focus on something different, for a time.
- Shower or Bathe – a soak in a bath or a brisk shower can change your energy state quickly. I like to add in some essential oils to my bath – Lavender and Geranium are perfect.
- Let your emotions out – Cry when and if you need to. Your emotions are better out than in and tears are a healing release. You may find yourself often triggered, just go with it.
- Turn off the Media – watching the news and hearing difficult, sad stories, will trigger you and you’ll begin to downward spiral. Instead, listen to some uplifting music, read or watch an uplifting film, if you want to zone out.
- Rescue Remedy – it does what it says – it supports you going through a difficult situation and is a great prop to lean on.
- Meditate – there are many guided visualisations and meditations you can listen to on YouTube. This helps with your mental health and takes you into a place of calm, so that you’re more able to carry on.
- Deep Breathing – breath into your belly for a slow count of 3. Hold for 2, slowly release for 6 until all the breath is out, hold for 2. Repeat 5 times.
- Journal – this helps get your thoughts out of your head and it creates space. It’s also good to really tap into how you’re feeling. Know that whatever thoughts and feelings come up, it’s OK to have them. The important thing is to let them pass through, not dwell on them.
Funeral or Ceremony of Life
If you’re unable to attend your loved one’s funeral because of safety and numbers. Hold a private ceremony at home with any family members living in your house, or on your own alone. Some suggestions for this;
- Light a candle for your loved one and keep it burning during the day
- Display photographs that you love and dedicate a space in your home for them, a small table, or a tray or area. Rather like a shrine.
- Arrange different objects that they cherished there. If they had a favourite flower, add it or a leaf from the garden. Or an image, if you can’t get the real thing. Maybe their favourite colour is represented, or an essence of them in any way you feel.
- Write a poem, or a letter and read it out. Play music which reminds you of them. If they’re religious, read a script or psalm. If your family members are not living with you, do an online ceremony where you can all gather together. It’s important to celebrate the life they had and commemorate them.
As we are living in unusual circumstances, your grief will be heightened.
Grief is a lonely place to be. You often feel everyone else is carrying on and you’re left standing still. You lose your identity, and often don’t know where you fit in. It’s a feeling of being a square peg in a round hole.
Know that you’re not going mad, and this too shall pass all in good time.
Give yourself the time to grieve and feel all the emotions, but mostly do reach out. Contact a family member, or a good friend. People often don’t know what to say to you and often avoid you because they think you may just want to be left alone. They feel uncomfortable about saying the wrong thing. Just know that people will be thinking of you, they don’t know how to express it. This can be hurtful, as it’s often the people you least expect.
I work with people, who are grieving – please reach out if you’d like a call to discuss how you might move through your situation. Sending you love and light. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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