The coronavirus, officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, continues to cause loss around the world. Whether it is a loss of life, a job, financial or emotional security, freedom, physical closeness to loved ones, or the comfort of our daily routines, losses like these cause feelings of grief.
We may think that because we didn’t lose a loved one to the virus, or the financial impact to us personally isn’t devastating, we aren’t entitled to our grief. After all, we’re the lucky ones, right? But feelings of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, and hopelessness are all symptoms of grief. It is important to understand that all grief is legitimate.
Why Resiliency is Needed to Manage Grief
To recover from grief, you will need to recognize it and move through it. If you try to “stuff” your feelings they will inevitably emerge, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.
- Physical symptoms of unexpressed grief may include unexplained pain, stomach problems, heart palpitations, exhaustion, and insomnia.
- Emotional and behavioral expressions may include anger, hyper-sensitivity, apathy, lack of enjoyment in life, numbness, bitterness, and addictive behaviors such as disordered eating or abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Ways to Manage Grief
- Talk to a professional counselor. If a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, take advantage of one of the many online options.
- Maintain contact with your personal support system. Use Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, or another app to stay connected. Talk on the phone, email, or text.
- Honor your feelings. Don’t discount your own losses as being less substantial than the losses experienced by others. Don’t be afraid to talk about what’s making you feel sad or afraid.
- Add structure to your day. Set a schedule that works for you, including when to get up and when to retire at night, your goals for the day, when to exercise, who you plan to contact that day, a fun or creative activity, and a time to get outside for fresh air.
- Limit the negative. Don’t watch or listen to too much negative news, movies, or TV shows. If you need information on COVID-19, listen to the experts, and not over-hyped reports.
- Focus on the positive. Use mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and other techniques to manage stress and feel more uplifted.
- Express gratitude. Think about, talk about, and write about what you are grateful for.
- Give to others. You can donate money or goods to shelters or food banks, sew face masks to give away, organize a charity event, or find another way to help.
Refuse to let COVID-19 completely erode your sense of safety and joy. The most valuable resource we have is each other. Stay socially connected, offer, and accept support, and make time to check in on your friends, family, and neighbors. Practice positive thinking as you focus on ways to strengthen yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
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