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Honoring Our Grief

Recently my sister-in-law and I connected by phone and yucked it up per usual during our special time, however, unlike our pre-pandemic visits, we now voice our worries about a lot of things–like our millennial-aged kids: their health and jobs, about our fragile mother in assisted living, my brothers flying, the economy? Will life ever return to “normal?”
“It feels like a free-fall,” says Francis Weller, a Santa Rosa, Calif., psychotherapist. “What we once held as solid is no longer something we can rely upon.”
The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe has not only left many anxious about life and death issues, it’s also left people struggling with a host of less obvious losses as we maintain stay-home recommendations and wonder how bad all of this is going to get.
To navigate these uncertain times, it’s important to acknowledge and grieve lost routines, social connections, family structures and our sense of security–and then create new ways to move forward–says interfaith chaplain and trauma counselor, Terri Daniel.
“We need to recognize that mixed in with all the feelings we’re having of anger, disappointment, perhaps rage, blame and powerlessness–is grief,” says Daniel, who works with the dying and bereaved.
Left unrecognized and unattended, grief can negatively impact “every aspect of our being– physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” says Sonya Lott, a Philadelphia-based grief counselor.
Yet with our national focus on the daily unending turn of events as the coronavirus spreads and with the craziness it brings, some underlying losses may get overlooked. People who are physically well may not feel entitled to their emotional upset over the disruption of normal life. Yet, it’s important to honor our own losses even if those losses seem minor compared to others–she lists in a recent Los Angeles Times article 4 ways of doing that:
Bear witness and communicate: sharing our stories is an essential step, Daniel says So, let’s communicate with our friends and family about our experiences–offering a space in which to share our feelings without either of us offering advice or trying to fix anything for the other. “Grief is not a problem to be solved,” he says. “It’s a presence in the psyche awaiting, witnessing.”
Write, create, express: Whether we’re an extrovert or introvert, keeping a written or recorded journal of these days offers another way to express, to identify and to acknowledge loss and grief; art therapy, which can be especially helpful for children unable to express well with words, for teens as well as for many adults. Another exercise she often uses in grief workshops is a simple one in which participants use their breath to blow their sadness, fear and anger into a rock that they then throw away. “What this does is takes all that intense, painful energy out of our bodies and into an inanimate object that they symbolically throw far away from themselves,” Daniel says.
Meditate: Regular meditation and just taking time to slow down and take several deep, calming breaths throughout the day also works to lower stress and is available to everyone. Free meditation apps are available and helpful.
Be open to joy: and finally, make sure to let joy and gratitude into our lives during these challenging times. Whether it’s a virtual happy hour, tea time or dance party, reach out to others, she says. “If we can find gratitude in the creative ways that we connect with each other and help somebody,” she says, “then we can hold our grief better and move through it with less difficulty and more grace.” (Have fun with that therapy pet of yours–which they all can be if they are accepted and treated as such).
Here is a short meditation from Insight Timer titled ‘Today is Your Day’
Today I give over this day to my higher self. Everything I say, everything I think, everything I feel I give to you. This day is your day, you made it, you created it, you guide it and you’ll bring it to its conclusion. Today I give you this day and release myself from all worry, all fear, all trouble, all concern, because it is your day. Whatever happens, whatever is said to me, whatever I see, whatever happens in the greater world, it is yours. It is not mine to worry, yet only to pray to give this day your greater love, your greater compassion, your greater patients.
Ok–time for more viral humor: They said that a mask and gloves were enough to go to the supermarket. They lied, everyone else has clothes on.
One day at a time, Warriors! And let’s be gentle with ourselves along the way.