Deb Langhans shares some thoughts with you on grief…
Last April 3rd, the San Juan Update posted an “invitation” for me about an online “ITM (In This Moment) Circle” I hope to start soon as another way fellow islanders can “come together” and co-create a “glass half full” virtual gathering each week during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Today I wanted to write from a different vantage point. During times like these, feelings like anxiety, loneliness, fear, disappointment, depression, hopelessness… are fairly easy to identify. There’s another emotion that’s often harder to recognize, especially since our culture tends to overlook, avoid, minimize and even deny its existence: grief.
Grief is the natural and normal response to an amazingly broad scope of losses experienced within our emotional heart, body and spirit. A client of mine recently shared that a dear longtime friend just died from COVID-19, bringing this pandemic very close to home for her… A mother of three I saw on a news story last week said her final goodbyes to her 42 year old husband over her cellphone as he lay on a ventilator miles away.
Such profound losses–and the grief that accompanies them– are readily discerned. But the solitary elder whose beloved grandchildren can’t come to visit… the casts and crews no longer able to mount stage shows… the high school seniors missing out on all the traditional graduation festivities… the unsheltered who can no longer rely on hunkering down together for warmth and safety… all those anticipating or experiencing births, weddings, funerals, memorials and other special occasions that can’t materialize now and, in some cases, ever… All these millions of people across the globe–including every one of us– are dealing with such losses that are just as real and powerful as the worst-case scenarios.
Grief over personal, familial, collegial, national and international losses, some temporary, some permanent; losses of predictable health, shelter, employment, income, recreation, travel, personal autonomy… even food and simple essentials like cleaning supplies, and yes, toilet paper, for pity’s sake! The list of losses could go on and on, all experienced unexpectedly and with no regard for plans, dreams, or playing by the rules. Every single one, and all the suffering attached to them, deserve to be acknowledged and honored.
How do we do this? How do we grieve these losses in healthy ways during these unhealthy times?
* Self-compassion is key. That means stopping long enough and looking deeply enough to recognize our pain and accept it without judgement or resistance. That doesn’t mean agreeing with it; just not spending precious and limited resources fighting what we can’t change. Neither does it mean revisiting emotional pain beyond our toleration; if a grieving process ever feels too intense, it’s important to honor that fragility, take a raincheck and return to that mourning incrementally.
Also for the record: Tears aren’t just cathartic; they’re actually health-promoting as they’re designed to help cleanse the body of potentially dangerous chemical side-effects from pent-up emotions.
* Spending time (via phone, video, drive-byes) with trusted, empathetic friends and family, is comforting and nourishing. And don’t forget to include pets–our mentors in teaching unconditional presence, love and acceptance!
* Mother Nature is another dependable healing balm. Immersing ourselves in her natural abundance always soothes our wounded hearts and, combined with brisk walking, can also encourage feelings of well-being.
* Speaking of activity–Research shows that daily pursuits typically bringing pleasure and joy help mitigate depression in particular.
* Alongside our acknowledging and accepting loss, another gift we can give ourselves is the practice of gratitude for what and who we’ve had and still may have. Gratitude multiplies our blessings and sense of security; it lifts us on multiple levels. Gratitude can also help us expand and sometimes realign our perspectives so life can continue unfolding in constructive ways.
How do we support others grieving losses?
If we’re truly “all in this together,” we may need to draw from deeper resources within ourselves as we respond to grief, not only our own, but others’ as well. It might mean recognizing that, while there are universally-experienced losses during this pandemic, each loss is as unique as the individual enduring it. We might be challenged to remember that grief is the territory of the heart not the head, so first acknowledging the downpour rather than a silver lining will maximize the intended comfort. Our greatest gift to others grieving will actually require the fewest words; the offering of unconditional presence and deep, active listening will always be more therapeutic than advice-giving or problem solving.
We all need to feel seen and heard and honored, especially as we experience grief from loss. Successfully conveying we’re not indifferent to suffering–our own or others’–can sometimes feel completely out of our comfort zone. But cultivating a whole-hearted approach can make all the difference.
There are numerous healthy ways of navigating through loss and the grief that naturally follows. If you’d like support in addressing your own grief more fully, or would like to explore how you can offer more beneficial support to others in pain, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary 30-minute session of grief recovery coaching via telephone.
My very best wishes to all,
Journeys To Healing