Why a Post About Pandemic Grief?

This post has been written by Geraldine as a result of a special request from one of our readers, who is finding difficulty coping with the pandemic situation and lockdown.  Thank you to Geraldine for responding so quickly to our request.

Pandemic Grief

Someone mentioned to me last week that they were feeling angry that their world, as you may imagine, has changed totally. They compared going through lockdown to going through the different stages of grief. I felt this was a very appropriate topic for this blog and here are my thoughts.

As the bells rang at midnight on 31st December 2019, how many of us could have possibly imagined the current situation? Coronavirus has changed our world dramatically and whether we realise it or not we are all going through some form of grieving experience.

Many families have been bereaved in the most difficult of circumstances. Their grief has been complicated by the inability to say ‘goodbye’ at the end. It is reported that many of these families are now carrying a huge burden of guilt about their loved one’s final days and hours. Did they make the right decision to ring the ambulance? Should they have kept them at home instead? Did their loved one understand why they weren’t at the hospital to comfort them at the end? Their questions go unanswered leading to unresolved grief. It is heartbreaking.

Even for those not bereaved, Coronavirus has left a litter of grief in its wake. The weddings that have been cancelled. New grandparents unable to meet their new grandson or granddaughter. Adult children unable to visit their ageing parents. Loss of jobs. Loss of freedom to live our life just as we want to. Even those little things like having to wait in the queue at the supermarket. So much loss and grief right now.

So yes, lockdown is causing us to grieve and it’s ok to feel grief around all these events, It’s a normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Our grief can lead to many different emotions: anger, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, calm, numbness, heartbreak, relief, resentment. Sometimes these feelings are conflicting and are often all jumbled up together. Whatever we are feeling is normal for us and how we grieve. We are all individual and unique in the way that we feel our grief.

This leads me on to the subject of the stages of grief. Some people may be aware of the book written by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross called On Death and Dying. She worked with terminally ill people for many years and came to identify five stages that a dying person goes through when they are told that they have a terminal illness. The stages identified are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These generally became known as the 5 stages of grief. As I understand grief there are no absolutes and no definite stages to grief. Some people may well be experiencing all the above around the advent of Coronavirus. Some people may not. If people wait to feel all the stages, then they may well get stuck in their grief as they wait for the ‘next stage’ which might not happen for them.

When I work with clients I use a programme called The Grief Recovery Method. Their definition of grief is – “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.” For all of us, our familiar patterns of behaviour have had to change due to coronavirus, and we don’t know for how long. If you’re struggling, here are some things to keep in mind:

· Acknowledge how you feel about lockdown, both good and bad. Try not to judge these feelings just let them be there

· If you start to feel overwhelmed by anxieties and worries for the future, try and bring yourself back to the present moment. Go and look out at nature. Take some deep breaths

· Try not to isolate yourself more than is necessary. When you feel low, reach out to friends and family that you know you can talk to. With technology today, thankfully there are so many ways to do this

· If you don’t have family and friends there are many organisations out there who are providing telephone and other support. Don’t be afraid to check these out. I am part of a online weekly wellbeing social – Talking About Loss which can be accessed via Zoom on a Saturday at 4 pm.

For more information about anything in this blog or even if you just want a quick chat send me an email at info@gerimace.com

Thank you to Geraldine for this post.  You can view Geraldine’s website and find out more about what she does and offers here.

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