In this guest blog I am sharing the wisdom of Grief Recovery Specialist, Allison James, from The Grief Recovery Institute. I hope you find this blog helpful.
Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Sounds like that perfectly describes what’s going on in the world right now, doesn’t it?
Make no mistake about it, the whole world is grieving.
How has your life and familiar patterns changed since the Coronavirus pandemic started?
Prior to COVID-19 most of us felt pretty safe in our environments and sure about our plans for the future. Now there is so much uncertainty about our physical and financial security.
Not only are we adapting to changes in our community, such as not being able to go to work or learning how to home-school, but there is no end in sight.
We don’t know when things will go back to normal or if they will again.
That can be scary right?
It certainly fits the definition of grief being the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Then there’s grief caused by knowing or hearing about people who have died of COVID-19 or are sick, and the concern for medical workers on the front lines.
How to tell if you’re grieving?
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace”. We do agree with that, but we don’t agree that there are stages of grief.
Many grievers do experience similar feelings and behaviors though.
- Are you having a hard time concentrating?
- Is it tough to fall or stay asleep?
- Are you eating more often or eating way less?
- Are you eating more sugar, dessert or snack foods?
- Do you lack energy?
- Are your emotions all over the place?
- Is it hard to stay in the moment?
- Do you go in one room to get something then forget why you went there?
- Do you feel isolated and are having a hard time adjusting?
- Have you coughed and your brain went to the worst case scenario?
- Are you arguing with your spouse?
- Are you trying to avoid your feelings by using Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviours like drinking, binge watching TV or scrolling on social media for hours?
I want you to hear me loud and clear:
If you don’t know how to deal with your feelings there is nothing wrong with you. You were never taught how!
No one sits you down when you’re ten years old to explain how to deal with the normal emotional pain you’ll experience in life. In fact, sometimes as a child your feelings get discounted. All we know is what we see other people in our society do and much of what they do won’t help you recover from grief.
Don’t feel bad
Maybe you were told not to feel bad and given a logical reason.
With Coronavirus people might say,
- “Don’t feel bad. At least you’re not sick.”
- “Why are you afraid about money? At least your spouse still has a job.”
- “At least you’re younger, so might be better off.”
- “It’s so sad he died, but he was old and lived a full life.”
So what do we do? We stuff our grief. We don’t talk about our normal sad and painful feelings and only share the positive ones.
We have a society of people wearing happy faces who feel like they are emotionally dying inside.
When people intellectualize your pain it reinforces the idea that being honest about your feelings is wrong. And let’s be frank, does hearing intellectual justification ever make you feel better?
Replace the loss
We were also taught to replace the loss. Remember when you were a child and you came home crying? Most of us heard some version of, “Don’t feel bad. Here’s a cookie”.
Later when your first relationship ended you probably heard, “Don’t feel bad. There are plenty of fish in the sea”.
Now when you are afraid you might hear, “Don’t feel bad, it’s God’s will.”
There’s nothing wrong with cookies, dating again or faith, but there is something wrong if you are trying to avoid normal feelings of sadness or pain.
So what works?
- Tell the truth about yourself. Be honest if your kids or friends ask how you are doing. Getting it out is extremely important. Plus, when you go first it makes it safe for the people you love to do the same thing.
- We suggest doing the following if you want to be there for your friends and family members:
- Be a heart with ears. Follow every word they say and stay in the moment.
- Be patient. Give them time to talk without interrupting. It can be hard for grievers to formulate their thoughts and words, so they may take longer than usual.
- Let them share openly without judging, correcting, criticizing or analyzing them.
- Remember, it can be painful for grievers to talk about their loss. Allow them to feel listened to and safe, even if you feel uncomfortable
- Try not to isolate. Reach out to people you know via phone, social media or video chat.
- Get a copy of “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” by John W. James and Russell Friedman. It’s not a “feel good” story of someone’s path to recovery or an intellectual textbook. It’s a heartfelt conversation on why grief hurts so much. You’ll walk through the necessary steps to deal with your grief. And they don’t just tell you what to do. They did the work themselves.
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Looking for support?
Canadian Grief Recovery Method Specialist, Tammy Adams loves to problem solve, inspire and motivate others who are ready and committed to change. Tammy has spent over 30 years in the field of education and as a Certified Life and Executive Coach Tammy teaches individuals to challenge and conquer their limiting beliefs and insecurities to create the life of their choosing. As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist Tammy understands that unresolved grief can limit an individual’s capacity for happiness and is gifted at supporting individuals through the pain and isolation cause by an emotional loss, of any kind, to a place of happiness they believed no longer existed. Tammy’s clients say, “Tammy helped me unpack the baggage and put a smile on my face in the process. It’s a rare quality for someone to fully listen without judgement but yet still steer you in the right direction.”