Here in Nashville we have been in quarantine for almost a month. As a Therapist, it has been an interesting experience watching things play out via social media, news, Zoom calls with friends, and being quarantined with my pregnant spouse.
The one thing that has stood out the most? People are grieving, and they don’t even realize it.
Plenty has been written about grief, and I do not claim to be a leading expert. However, I have spent countless hours processing grief with clients in counseling sessions, and I want to explore what it is, how to identify if you are experiencing it, what to do about it, and how grieving helps.
Simply put, grief is the response to loss or the anticipation of loss. On some level, we are all experiencing loss or the anticipation of loss right now. Loss may look like not being able to celebrate a birthday, have a baby shower, attend the funeral of a loved one, or losing one’s job. There are very few people who are not experiencing loss in some capacity right now.
Grief has stages. You may recognize the stages of grief by statements I’ve personally made to friends and family in the past few weeks. You may have even said some of the same things yourself:
- “This is just like the swine flu, people are making too big a deal about it.”
- “If people would quit being idiots and just stay at home like they told us to, this could be over more quickly.”
- “If this lifts by mid May, maybe we can still have a baby shower.”
- “There’s no point in planning that right now, we will probably still be in quarantine by then.”
- “This is going to be hard, but things will rebound and we will survive.”
If any of those sound like something you have said or ruminated on in the last few months, I would encourage you to dig deeper and consider that you may have been grieving.
You might have noticed an increase in your consumption of social media, alcohol, home projects, pornography, food, video games, etc. If so, you may be medicating or numbing the pain experienced due to the disruption and loss and not allowing yourself to grieve. Hear me say this: That is ok. I am not here to shame you for doing those things. We turn to those things because we are adaptive creatures and are wired to avoid pain. However, relying on such things in the long term turns into addiction, which is almost always destructive. Instead, let these actions be the light on the dashboard telling you something needs attention. Then give yourself the attention and care you need to heal.
What To Do About It
Grief is not about forgetting something happened and blindly marching forward without acknowledging we have been impacted. In fact, that is what we do when we don’t grieve. Instead, we need to give ourselves some intentional time and space to process what we are experiencing and get our needs met. There are many ways to do so, but I have outlined a few of the most common below:
- Letting everything out from our anger to our joy onto the pages of a journal can be extremely cathartic.
- If you believe in a higher power, praying through writing can help one feel connected and heard.
- Because there is a clear physiological component to emotions, exercise can help those emotions move, especially if we focus on what we may be experiencing emotionally, while exercising.
- Mindfulness can be as structured or unstructured as you like. Sometimes it may look like using a guided meditation app, while other times it may be simply sitting and breathing, allowing your brain to wander where it wants, or ruminating on a positive affirmation.
- Verbal Processing
- We are created for connection with other humans and by processing our emotional experiences with those we feel safe with (or a therapist/counselor), can be extremely helpful.
I get it…some of these may sound “kitschy” or “hippie dippie,” I felt the same way before I tried them. But there is a mounting wealth of data on the effectiveness of each. Call them stupid, curse my name while you are doing it, but just try it.
How It All Helps With Grief
Experiencing the emotions that come along with grief can be painful. However, grief is a gift that allows us to acknowledge we have lost something, and that what we lost was important. It allows us the ability to hold sorrow in one hand while holding hope in the other as we move forward in life.
I hope these words helped you find some clarity around what you have been experiencing over the past few months. Above all else, know you are not alone. We are all collectively grieving, and none of us will do so perfectly. What matters is that we give ourselves the permission to step back, heal, assess, and move forward in the most healthy direction for ourselves and our families.
Grace and Peace,
– Matt Dean
Matt has a masters in Marriage and Family therapy and is working towards licensure in the state of Tennessee. He specializes in working with men struggling with any number of issues from depression and anxiety to addiction. If you would like to schedule a teletherapy session or wellness check in with matt use this link or email [email protected] – to check out the rest of the services The Becoming: Counseling and Wellness offers go to www.thebecomingcounseling.com