Grief is always difficult and painful - it is one of the most challenging things we go through as human beings. The pandemic and current state of the world has made grieving harder. Here are some of the biggest ways I see the pandemic affecting grief.
1. Forced Isolation. It is not unusual for people to desire alone time while they are grieving. In fact, I used to hear the question - when do I start worrying about how much time I want to be alone? all the time. The pandemic has made this different though. Before this historically difficult time if we went into time of isolation to process our grief, we would be doing so out of choice - we would know that there were activities and people waiting for us - people who were missing us, and were waiting for us to return, and activities we may look forward to returning to when we were ready. With the enforced isolation, and the extra risk and effort it takes to go out and do things, the isolation feels forced rather than our choice, and this feels like another burden on top of the heavy feelings of grief.
2. Missing Rituals. Rituals are an extremely important part of mourning - and of being human. A funeral, a celebration of life, a mass said in honor of our loved one, gathering with family and friends to share memories, or a favorite meal are all part of the healing process for grief. Rituals help our souls process our loss and give us a meaningful way to express our feelings, and share grief with others. We have been deprived of these important ways to mark transitions. Many rituals have been delayed, or have had to happen virtually, and this is simply not as powerful as meeting in person. We are unable to receive physical comfort from our loved ones and feel that we are grieving as a group of people that loved together. While delayed rituals can be powerful, we are left with an unfinished feeling until we are able to complete what we have planned, and this can be painful. We need ways to express our grief in order to move through it, and this lack of rituals has been painful.
We have also been deprived of annual rituals, celebrating birthdays, the winter holidays and other occasions that help us mark the passing of a year of life. While many people who are grieving find celebrations difficult, we know that they are happening, even if we choose not to participate. The absence of some of these celebrations and annual traditions has been a relief for some people, but as the pandemic drags on, we may feel deprived of ways to connect with others and feel the passing of the seasons and of our year.
3. Lack of Human Touch. Touch is an important part of healing, and this especially true for grief, when we have lost someone who we shared physical contact with - hugs, kisses, hand holding, or if we lost a spouse or partner, many more forms of touch. Touch lowers cortisol, causes oxytocin to be released, increases feelings of trust and just makes us feel good. Right now, there is a huge focus on being “contactless”. This may help slow the spread of disease, but it is hard on our souls. We all need hugs and touch to heal.
4. Increased Anxiety Anxiety is always a part of grief. We are anxious about how we will face life without our loved one, and how we will respond to people asking us about our lives. If we lost a spouse or partner, we have anxiety over all of the ways our life has changed - generally increased responsibility, feelings of loneliness, feeling as if our social identity has disappeared or changed in an uncomfortable way. Each type of loss carries with it a unique version of anxiety. With the pandemic, and the continuous threat of illness, loss and unwelcome restrictions, we have many more things to be anxious about. All of the anxiety that came for everyone with the pandemic is combined with the anxiety our grief has caused, and this can be overwhelming.
5. The World is Carrying a Huge Load of Suffering. We are facing a time where there is just an unbelievable amount of suffering. The world is full of loss, pain and overwhelm. This is hard for all of us to bear, and if we have had a significant loss, we may feel that our grief is unimportant or unseen. The people we might normally lean on for support may be struggling with their own difficulties, and we may feel more alone. We may also feel guilty because we are too impacted by our own grief to help others who we would normally be there for. It simply takes us all more effort to function. This makes grieving heavier and more difficult
It is true that grieving is more painful and difficult now due to the unprecedented crisis our world has been facing. Know that if you feel that your grief feels more overwhelming that you are mourning during one of the most difficult times ever- and take heart. We can and will heal.
Here are five suggestions for healing:
1. Join a Support Group Connecting with others who can understand what you are going through is very powerful. I recommend closed groups - groups who have a set number of people that intend to attend all sessions- that last at least 8 weeks. Check your local hospices to see if there are any grief groups in your area - many are happening online right now. I designed my Healing Movement for Grief Groups to create connection and community - see if there is a new session starting here
2. Move Your Body It is really easy to feel stagnant and stuck during grief, and gentle movement can get our energy moving again. Try yoga, walking, dancing or my favorite -qigong. Finding a buddy to do this with, whether virtually or in-person makes this even more powerful.
3. Journal. Journaling helps us get thoughts out of our heads and onto paper - it can also help us track our progress, and keep track of dreams.
4. Get a Pet If you don’t have a pet already, they can add so much to our lives- affection, connection and many pets, such as cats require just the right amount of responsibility. Rescued animals are the best! Already have a pet? Consider adding another one, or spending more time with yours.
5. Try Some Energy Healing Energy healing is a very special way to heal grief. It can help move stuck emotions and bring feelings of lightness and clarity. When we are going through difficult times, we often need to try new things to facilitate our healing. Energy healing is a great place to start.