Our world has changed. What initially felt temporary is now beginning to feel more permanent. There is a collective grief being felt by many. Additionally, with feelings of an uncertain future, many are experiencing anticipatory grief which can take our minds to the worst scenarios.
Grieving an emotional loss, or a change in something familiar, is normal. We have been taught to distract ourselves from the emotions we do not wish to face. Burying or ignoring these emotions only delays our healing and leads to increased feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. Once we find the courage to confront what we have been avoiding, we can begin the healing process.
The Grief Recovery Institute believes there are myths many of us reach for in an attempt to heal our emotional pain. We have been conditioned to believe our feelings do not matter and as a result many of us self-isolate and grieve alone. We have been taught to be strong for others and in an effort to feel better we replace our loss. We stay busy as we wait for time to heal our wounds. These coping strategies are called myths for a reason. Rather than heal our pain, these strategies keep us trapped in a never-ending cycle of grief.
How do these myths relate to COVID and our current protocols?
Grief can be the result of the death of a loved one. It may be the feelings which follow divorce. Grief may be things we wished had been different, unrealized dreams and expectations, or unsaid communications which need to be heard. Grief can be the conflicting feelings due to a change in something familiar. COVID has robbed us of our familiar – removed our feelings of safety and caused many of us to feel a loss of control and personal autonomy. Couple all this with any previous unresolved emotions, and we find ourselves riding a never-ending rollercoaster of emotional uncertainty.
Intellectual statements differ greatly from those which come from our heart. As humans we are programmed to want to be accepted, to fit in, and will do anything to achieve this. With so much misinformation, confusion, and division surrounding COVID we may find ourselves afraid to share our thoughts and feelings for fear of rejection. When we believe our feelings do not matter, we withdraw, shelter ourselves from the criticism, and wait for the storm to pass.
Waiting for the pain to go away can increase our feelings of isolation and anxiety. Time is not a verb: it is a noun. To resolve any unfinished business, which resides within us, we are the ones who must act.
Uncomfortable with the silence and isolation, many of us reach for short term energy relieving behaviours (STERBs) to distract us from our pain. During COVID, our distractions have become even easier to access. Alcohol and grocery stores remain open. Netflix provides endless hours of entertainment. Phones and computers offer numerous applications to occupy our time. STERBs do provide relief in the interim. However, once we are in the silence, with only our thoughts, we are reminded of what we were trying to escape. Void of effective steps to take, we continue to drink more than usual, eat more than usual, etc. – all in an ineffective effort to reclaim control of our emotions.
When we were upset as a child, we were taught to replace our pain with sweets, or to replace a lost pet with a different animal. In high school we replaced a broken relationship with a new person. As adults we learned to replace our pain and to stay busy.
Finally, we do our best to be strong for others – a futile task since we cannot be anything for someone else. Being strong for someone else encourages us to deny our own feelings.
During COVID we have been encouraged not to share our fear. Media and social media keep us confused. When we hear of a loved one dying alone, we may feel our own situation is less important somehow. When we compare our losses to those of another it gives us yet another reason not to share, or be honest, with how we are feeling.
We may be seeing only the beginning of the mental health effects of COVID. Living in constant fear, loss of freedom, financial changes, loss of career, for some the loss of our own health or the death of a loved one – all this has encouraged us to place our emotions under lock down. Sheltering will not allow us to process our feelings in a safe and effective way.
Unlike other human emotions, grief must be experienced. We must process these emotions to come out the other side of grief. Not being honest, or clearly sharing our pain, can leave us feeling anxious, depressed, exhausted, and unable to set healthy boundaries.
The Grief Recovery Method® is an evidence-based, educational program which teaches how to identify, process, and mend the pain caused by grief. Whether our pain is focused on COVID, a fear of what our future will look like, or the build up of unresolved childhood emotions, there IS a way to feel better. This program provides an opportunity for greater focus and clarity, better sleep, a healthier appetite, and most importantly, we feel lighter as we are no longer carry the emotional weight of grief around with us.
Tammy Adams, offering grief support, in-person or online, Canada-wide. To learn more about the Grief Recovery Method process and how to “let go” of the past, book a 20-minute free phone consult with Tammy Adams, Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist. Learn more at www.tadams.ca