The COVID19 pandemic turned the world upside down. Widespread change came, and it came fast. With those changes came a variety of emotions, feelings that come and go, that rise or shift in the snap of a finger; there are triggers.
We went to bed in one world and woke up in another. Overnight we moved from a world of touch and companionship, one of freedom, to one of restriction and separation. We got a whole new set of rules to play by. Roles changed. If you weren’t thrust into a place of isolation and aloneness, you may have found yourself in a limited space with too many people, lacking any personal solitude. Everything was thrown off balance.
Drawing from the tools of my Chaplaincy training, I began to reflect on my own chaos of emotions. And, I contemplated the emotions of those I had been visiting in my work, as well as those of the people in my personal life. I did not recognize it at first, I racked my brain trying to understand, it finally hit me; this is GRIEF. You see, we typically view grief as associated with the physical death of a person, when in truth, many types of losses ignite the grieving process.
COVID19 created a Systemic Loss. This kind of loss is the loss (death) of a system, it is to experience a change we have no control over. This pandemic ‘killed’ life as we knew it. Suddenly, every interaction, activity, each movement we performed as part of daily life changed. Things became regulated or taken away. And, it came with a shocking blow. Think of what you might feel learning someone close had unexpectedly, tragically died. Consider the shock to your entire being. COVID brought shock and disbelief.
Loss brings grief, and grief has stages:
Denial – I cannot believe this happened
Anger – Why was this taken away from me?
Bargaining – If X is restored to me I will do Y
Depression - This is just too much for me, I cannot cope
Acceptance – I need to adjust
The stages are not a straight line. Grief is not lineal. During the grieving process we move in and out of these phases, possibly multiple times, experiencing the feelings attached to each phase. There is no right way to grieve. Grief does not come with a calendar, there is no expiration date. We are all sharing the same systemic loss, and, our grief, and grieving process, is individual. Grief is personal.
I extend two invitations to you. First, reflect on how COVID has impacted your life. Allow yourself the space to feel the feelings that come with that impact. It is ok to want to ‘be’ for a while, to think and speak of what the affect is on YOU. Express rather than suppress. Allow others to do the same, refrain from judgement. What is true for you need not be true for anyone else, and vice versa.
Next, let us be kind to one another. The way we adjust, cope, is unique. Wanting a haircut may not be driven by selfishness or indifference to the sick and those who care for them. It may be an expression of a desire for ‘normal’. To have back what was 'lost'. And, to be deeply fearful of the virus may not be driven by cowardice, but rather the natural desire to protect what one still has.
My hope is that by understanding the 'why' behind the feelings and the feelings behind the 'why', you will be better able to care for yourself and those around you, in the way that each one needs.
Part 6 will discuss the healing process. For COVID19 Parts 1 - 4, please return to the main blog page.