by Melisse Ogilvie, Social Worker
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
– Vicki Harrison
During this pandemic, we recognise that many people have suffered various losses and, as a result, are experiencing several emotions. This emotional response or experience following a loss is called grief.
We know that grief is not limited to the loss of a loved one, but in this period, it is also a consequence of the pandemic. People will have strong feelings about all the changes, transitions, and uncertainty; feel scared for themselves and others.
Those strong feelings are associated with the loss of one of the following: A sense of normalcy and structure; personal agency or decision making power; job or financial losses; physical contact or time with family and friends; missing school, work or social time; cancelled plans, trips and celebrations; missed milestones, like graduations and weddings; not being able to be with an ill family member; death of a loved one, without an opportunity for a final goodbye or a proper burial.
Whatever the loss, a grieving person experiences difficult emotions, such as profound sadness; loneliness; anger; frustration; shock; disbelief; anxiety. These are all normal reactions to have and one should never feel guilty for reacting in this way.
Grief not only affects us emotionally, but the effects to our physical health are similar to that of chronic stress. Some of the symptoms include difficulty sleeping; loss of appetite; reduced concentration; general aches and pains; and digestive issues.
The cause of your grief and the physical and emotional signs are real to you.
Here are some ways you can cope with a loss:
Recognise that you are grieving and it’s a healthy and normal response to a loss. Persevere through the process by allowing yourself to grieve.
Make a concerted effort to care for yourself. Create moments where you can be happy and escape. You can do this by exercising to improve sleep and concentration; eating healthy; gardening; journaling and helping a neighbour.
Understand that grief comes in ebbs and flows, with control and predictability being sometimes difficult to obtain. Expect that you will find yourself with people, and in situations that trigger your sadness. Be patient with yourself as your healing will not come in a straight line or cannot be time-tabled.
Stay connected to friends and family while exercising physical distancing. Spending time with others will help you resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Additionally, talking to someone will help you heal and let go of the stress.
If any of the symptoms are persistently impacting you, please seek professional help. This is the ultimate, healthy option to pursue.
Learning to swim, especially when the tide is against you, is not easy but can be done. Do it, because your life depends on it.
As always, I remind that you are not alone.