2020 & Living with Grief
June 22, 2020
Coping with Grief through the Age of COVID-19
Grief is one of the few unavoidable experiences in life. We all have to deal with loss at some point; at the moment, faced with the new reality of living with COVID-19 and the fight for equality for Black people raging across the states, more of us are experiencing grief than ever before. Even worse, many of us are experiencing it without our usual support systems as we isolate or remain living in an area which is still in lockdown.
No matter how well you think that you know yourself, grief is unpredictable. Your journey is yours and yours alone, but, hopefully, the following tips for coping with grief will help you on your journey to healing.
What is Grief?
Grief is our reaction to loss. It’s painful, but it’s a completely natural process. Grief can be an overwhelming emotion, and it’s not always just sadness. You may feel lost, numb, scared, confused, angry, and a whole range of other emotions. Every day might be different, your moods might swing wildly, and you might have no control over your emotions.
When Do We Grieve?
When we think about grief, our first thought might be grieving for the loss of a loved one, but we grieve for a number of things. You might grieve a pet or a celebrity that you admire. You might grieve because a friend has moved away, or because you’ve lost a job. You can even grieve as you learn about America’s history of racism and the atrocities Black Americans have suffered throughout history. And many are grieving the loss of normalcy we had before COVID hit America. It’s often the change that upsets and confuses us, not the loss itself.
Forget Moving On
Forget about moving on. Forget about letting your grief go, especially if you’ve lost someone very important to you. In a year’s time, you may find yourself suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and loss.
You don’t get over grief. Think of it more as learning to live with it, or learning to control the symptoms so that they don’t have a negative effect on your life.
Acknowledge That Your Life Will Be Different
Part of learning to live with your grief is accepting that your life is going to be different from now on. If you’ve lost someone that you saw daily, or who was a big presence in your life, everything could change. And even if you haven’t lost someone, you may be grieving a complete change of life during the Pandemic and as protests continue in your home town.
Don’t look to go back to normal, instead accept that things are going to be different, and find a new normal that you can live with.
Remember The Person You Have Lost
It’s tempting to try and forget. To block memories out. To pretend that everything is fine and that nothing has happened. This is a mistake, and will only ever delay grief.
Instead, remember whatever you have lost. Talk about it, look at photos and watch videos and remember the times that you had. It will be hard, but over time these memories will bring you comfort and help you to live with your grief.
If you have lost someone, You may want to commemorate them with jewelry for cremation ashes, or a visit to a special place. Just don’t try to forget.
Don’t Let Guilt In
One of the worst parts of grief is those moments when we forget to be sad. You might laugh at a joke, or smile while enjoying an activity. Then, the guilt comes crashing in. You feel terrible for not being sad.
Don’t let this guilt in. It’s ok to smile and laugh. It doesn’t mean that you are over it, or that you don’t care. It just means that you are still living.
Let Yourself Feel
Another mistake that people make when dealing with grief is trying to force themselves to feel the way that they think they should. They read about the stages of grief, and potential time frames for these stages and they try to force their own feelings to fit. “I must be angry for three weeks”, but it doesn’t work this way. Let yourself feel what you feel, for as long as you feel it, without questioning yourself or trying to put yourself into a box.
Talk, and Then Talk Some More
Talking is one of the best ways to live with your grief. Don’t bottle things up, speak with people that you love. But choose your company carefully. You might prefer to spend time with close friends and avoid others. You might prefer to hang out with someone who has been through something similar for a while.
Don’t Try To Force Yourself to Be Strong
After a loss, when we seem to be coping, people often compliment us on our strength or talk about how strong we are to be coping so well. You may hear that you need to be strong for other people, or believe that being strong is something that you should strive for.
It isn’t. You are strong, whether you are crying in bed or going about life as usual.
Take Care of Yourself
Grief can be all-consuming. It can take over your every thought. It’s easy to forget to look after yourself. You might lose your appetite, or find it hard to sleep. You might stop seeing friends or stop going to work.
While a little wallowing is fine, maybe even necessary, taking care of yourself through an emotional trauma is crucial. Get into good sleep habits, practice self-care, exercise, eat well and give your body what it needs, even if your mind is struggling.
Watch Out For Depression
Many of the symptoms of grief and depression are similar, and it’s certainly normal to experience depression with grief. But, it should fade over time. If you are worried that you have more serious depression, or your grief is starting to take over your life, and you can’t manage on your own with self-care, see your doctor for further advice.