People who know me, are aware that I’m an avid wool spinner and knitter…but when I’m talking about “I’m Spinning…” in this post’s title, I’m not talking about the wool I’m playing with because of extra time at home, I’m talking about my head. All the rapid changes that are happening are mind-boggling!
Last week, I asked the question “Where is Your Grief?”. Over the past few days I’ve noticed many media sources suggesting that “we’re all grieving”, but for a culture that doesn’t talk about grief, what does this mean?
A Grief Primer
For those of us to whom grief is a ‘new-ish’ idea, here are some basic concepts.
- Grief is a normal response to the loss of something or someone that is important to us. While we usually associate grief with the death of a loved one, we may also grieve when we lose a job, relationship, life role or favourite possession. If it’s something we value, it’s loss is difficult. If we love, we grieve.
- Contrary to popular belief, there are no five stages of grief. The grief journey is a spiral that we work through. Grief is circular, not linear.
- Grief is individual. Not only do we each grieve differently, but we also grieve each loss differently. The way that I suffer the loss of a partner, won’t be the same way that I grieve the death of a parent–and it won’t be the way that my sibling will grieve the same parent.
- Grief not only affects us emotionally, but we are also affected mentally and physically. Common experiences of grief include (and not limited to):
- extreme tiredness
- digestive changes
- fuzzy brain
- increased anxiety
- sudden emotional flooding such as crying (grief bursts)
- sleeplessness or too much sleep
- Grief irrevocably changes us. We are not the same people at the beginning of the process than at the end.
- Grief lasts as long as it lasts. There is no rushing the process. The only way out is through.
Applying the Concepts
When we superimpose what we now know about grief to our experiences with a world dealing with COVID-19, the media statement starts to make sense.
Grief is a normal response.
On a grand scale, we are grieving the globe as we knew it. We watch as different countries cope with the virus in different ways, with different levels of success. Suddenly we may be more aware of daily fluctuations in global financial markets or supply lines than ever before. Our world-view is shifting.
On a national and local scale, my country appears to be coping, though long-term care facilities and front-line supports appear to be bearing the brunt of the number of COVID cases.
On an individual scale, we miss seeing our friends and families in the same way. For some of us who have family and friends living in different countries, there is the realization that we can’t reach them if they experience an emergency. If we have lost our jobs, paying bills may be a concern. If we are working from home, there is an adjustment to new ways of being productive.
We are all grieving social contact–even if it means smiling at someone in the grocery store. No one knows if you’re smiling when you’re wearing a mask.
Grief is a non-linear spiral.
When we think of a linear process, we move through the stages and then we’re done. The reality is that we cycle through the same behaviours (high-levels of emotions, sleep issues, increased anxiety, etc.) and the context will be different. We’re not failing at grief, we are growing. We may have a day or two when we start to feel normal, and then a few difficult days. This is normal as we adjust to changes.
Grief is individual.
You may have noticed as you speak to others that we are all coping (or not coping) in different ways. What may be a trigger for one person doesn’t affect another. Part of this process is determining our own healthy ways to get through this time.
Grief not only affects us emotionally, but we are also affected mentally and physically.
Based on our experiences, it’s important to recognize that what we are feeling is normal given these extraordinary circumstances. We only have so much ‘bandwidth’ to deal with life, and when so much of it is taken up with having to adjust to a fast-changing world, it makes sense that our entire systems are going to be affected.
Grief irrevocably changes us.
Pundits are saying that the world will no longer be the same after COVID-19. We won’t be either. Hopefully, we will have a new respect for the resiliency of ourselves and others.
Grief lasts as long as it lasts. There is no rushing the process. The only way out is through.
Depending on the loss and our relationship to it, grief becomes a part of us for the rest of our lives–though it changes over time. I suggest that, just as historical events affected our ancestors, we too will be altered. I remember speaking with grandparents about their experiences during WWII. Their losses were as poignant then as when they had occurred, and they were able to place them in the context of the rest of their lives. They had integrated their experiences.
So, We’re Grieving, Now What?
The Need for Self-care
Self-care is always important, and never more so than in times of stress and uncertainty–such as when we are grieving. While activities that feed us are individual, here are some basics.
- Eat well. Follow the 80/20 rule – if 80 percent of your diet is healthy, the rest can be “fun” food.
- Drink lots of water. When we are under pressure, our bodies move into fight or flight mode. The hormones rushing through our systems at that time need to be flushed out.
- Limit caffeine and sugar. These substances mimic the stress hormones which we’re trying to get rid of.
- Exercise. Something as simple as going for a regular walk is helpful.
- Give your brain a break. If you have a meditation practice, try to find time to fit it in. If not, find a simple mindfulness practice online. Even 10 minutes a day is beneficial.
- Find or revisit a hobby. Even 15 minutes doing something that you enjoy will help you to relax.
- Spend time with loved ones–in ways that are safely possible.
We are all grieving together. So, let’s be kind…to ourselves and others.
And now…this clip was sent to me by a friend about what’s happening in Nova Scotia. It definitely brightened my day, and was in my head all day! Enjoy!