Weekly Wellness Update

Week of June 8-12 - Grieving the Many Losses During Covid 19

The Many Losses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Christine MacMillan, MSW, RSW, Clinical Social Worker

We are facing an unparalleled time in history. We are trying to understand and cope with this change and uncertainty. Collectively, around the globe we are grieving the many losses because of this virus.

Like the grief experience after the death of a loved one, we also experience both real and symbolic losses during this time. Real losses include loss of freedom, choice, decision making, financial security and social connection with family, friends, through leisure activities, with religious communities or at the workplace. Symbolic losses are losses that are not obvious and tangible. These losses may include loss of opportunity, identity or meaning.

A normal reaction to any loss is grief: a state of deprivation that impacts the body, mind, and spirit. We are deprived of many things at present and our responses may include frustration, sadness, depression, anger, heightened feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, sleeping and eating disturbances or other physical reactions.

This upheaval and our feelings in response to it may not be pleasant but know that it is normal …. It’s ok not to be ok. There is a very real reason for us to feel the way we do. We must try not to resist the normalcy of our reactions; instead we must acknowledge it and give ourselves permission to feel the feelings. Then, to counterbalance these feelings, take stock of what you do still have in your life; name the things you are grateful for. This is shown to boost mood, lower stress levels, strengthen your immune system, and (still) feel connected to others.

This too, like the experience of acute grief, will not last forever. In the meantime, try to cultivate patience and acceptance. Understand there are many things out of your control and determine what you can control. Live one day or moment at a time with hope.

Activities To Do With Family

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The Stages

Right now, people are experiencing the five stages as it applies to the pandemic in a number of ways:

Denial – This isn’t real; this isn’t happening. I won’t get sick. I’m not in a risk category, so I should act like there’s nothing happening.

Anger – This is (insert name of person, country, people)’s fault! If people wouldn’t (insert any number of reasons) this wouldn’t happen!

Bargaining – This is going to be over really soon, so it’s no big deal if I go to the store more often; we can hang out as long as we wash our hands and cover our coughs.

Despair – This is never going to end; life has to be in a bubble from now on. I’m going to lose everything because I can’t work.

Acceptance – This is not something I can control. I need to listen to the experts and take every precaution. I know that will change my life, but it doesn’t mean I have to stop living.

If you start to feel this way, remember that while we are all going through something as individuals, we are still all going through this — individually, together. Just because your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and anyone else is going through this in an way that looks different than you doesn’t automatically mean you are dealing with this the wrong way. Also, try to remember, these experiences aren’t so much stages as they are cycles. We can experience these stages in any number of combinations. And don’t be afraid to take a look at where you are with these stages and ask yourself if you could use some help. Talk with a friend or family member, talk with a spiritual leader, or talk with an expert in this area.

Grief and COVID-19: Mourning What We're Missing
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