It's now been more than a year since our lives changed so dramatically with the arrival of the pandemic. As we start to see the awakening of spring with bulbs pushing up through the soil and trees budding, we're also starting to see signs of hope that our lives might be just beginning the long journey back to something that seems more normal.
Over half a million people in the United States have died because of the coronavirus, leading many communities to feel a collective loss.
When we think about grief, the death of a loved one is the first thing that comes to mind, but grief can be much more than this. Grief is the natural reaction to any type of loss – a broken relationship, losing a job, life-changing illness or injury, or a pandemic where people around the globe are mourning not only the deaths of their loved ones but the loss of their careers and even the sense of normalcy they used to have.
To deal with our grief, we must first know that grief is normal, even when circumstances are not. As we're working through grief, here are some things to keep in mind.
Grief is different for everyone
Grief is personal and individual and everyone's experience is different. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are several stages of grief: denial, anxiety, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but not everyone experiences all of these or in a specific order. There is no timetable for grief. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, for as long as it takes.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Cut yourself some slack as you navigate with whatever losses have come your way in the past year. Don't feel like you have to get better or you have to maintain a facade of normalcy. In reality, we should be praising ourselves for just being able to push on during a global pandemic. Your grief may not only be more intense than you expected but it will also be manifested in more areas and ways than you ever anticipated.
Give yourself permission to have moments of happiness
Grief is cyclic, sometimes described as coming in waves. As you move through grief, you'll start to notice moments when the burden feels lighter. You don’t have to ignore or forfeit any sense of pleasure while you’re processing a loss and you don't have to feel guilty. These moments can be fleeting, but they will help get you through the process.
Create a support system
If we acknowledge there is no right way to grieve, we should also admit we might need guidance to figure out our individual needs when experiencing loss. Friends and family are the first lines of defense, but there are times when our grief is so profound or persistent that we need to seek professional help. Therapy, grief counseling and support groups can be an invaluable source of support and relief.
Your grieving process is unique to you, and this can make it feel isolating. However, in the past year, loss has certainly been a shared experience. Navigating grief post-Covid-19 is something that’s new for every single person, and utilizing the little pieces of wisdom others have to share during this tumultuous time may help you find healing.