Grief occurs whenever there is a loss or perceived loss in our lives. This can be the loss of a job or friendship, an imposed isolation, or, the most devastating, the death of a loved one. During our current crisis a person could experience any one or even all of these difficult losses at the same time. Even for those who have not experienced the most devastating losses there can be the fear, or even panic, of things to come. So how do we manage grief and fear during this uncertain time of crisis? Here are some guidelines to assist you in navigating this difficult journey:
1. Be aware and follow the government orders and guidelines. It can be difficult to figure out what to believe because of all the changes of information, but trust that the people who are putting restrictions in place have society’s best interest at heart, and that they are doing the best they can. It is necessary for individuals to abide by the rules and guidelines we receive from the government for the good of the community, nation and the world.
2. Limit your news exposure. This may seem like a contradiction from the first point, but it does not take long to hear or read what the current mandates and suggestions are for the nation/state. Whereas becoming saturated with the news which continues to focus on the worst case scenarios only proves to heighten our own panic and reinforces our sense of being a victim. Limiting your exposure to a half an hour or less a day is plenty of time to stay current and it puts up a barrier to being completely overwhelmed.
3. The work of grieving happens when you are alone so make your alone time productive. Dealing with loss means embracing our feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, etc. These feelings may come and go. They can be overwhelming at one time, and be “under control” at another time. The most effective way to deal with these feelings is to acknowledge them through telling someone, writing them in a journal, or another way of expression. This can be a lifeline, because acknowledging these uncomfortable feelings can become a way of releasing them. When they are shared with a trusted friend who just listens, or are written in a journal, there is no judgement. Feelings are not right or wrong, and feelings can change. So fear acknowledged can be fear released to turn into hope.
4. Use prayer or meditation as a way to refocus the mind and heart. Christians can read the Bible and look for what God has to say about crises in the world. Find a devotion that you can read every day, and pray about the problems that are surrounding you right now, and entrust the people you care about to God as well. Breathe slow deep breaths and focus on the words you have read to give peace to your soul.
5. Keep in contact with others. We are in the midst of social distancing and in order to be safe we need to keep our physical distance from those not living in our own home. But in order to successfully navigate the grieving process we NEED other people. We need to be in connection with others. So call people you know and check on how they are doing. Possibly this is the time to learn how to do a face-to-face call through your computer (either just audio or ideally video too). Make sure you talk with someone at least once a day.
6. Eat healthy food and get some exercise (if you can get outside that’s even better). Our moods are affected by what we eat and by our body’s movement. Using comfort foods (high fat and high sugar) to feed our soul will backfire because it sets up our body for a high energy burst but then a crash. Now is the time to make sure we get the vitamins and fuel our body needs through vegetables, fruit, meats, seeds and nuts, beans, and whole grains. Then take a walk every day or get some type of regular exercise. Find a work out that you like on YouTube or another website. Exercise provides a natural endorphin release in our body, and if you can be outside, you may be able to wave to some neighbors or have an across the street conversation.
7. Tell yourself the truth. It is easy in a crisis to project our feelings of fear and uncertainly into the future, especially when there was nothing we did to cause our current situation. In reality none of us knows the future, and we are also only able to impact our lives today, this minute. So projecting doom and gloom into the future only limits our ability to take action on what we can do today to improve our own perspective and also reach out and encourage someone else. Today is challenging, and it can prove to be exhausting. Grief under the best of circumstances is hard work. But be gentle with yourself, focus on what you can do right now, and trust that when the future comes you will also be able to handle that as well, one day at a time.
For meditation, sleep and movement exercises that are designed to help you keep a strong and healthy mind in the midst of this global health crisis click on this link: