COVID-19 Mental Health: Is What I’m Experiencing Called Grief?
COVID Coping and Managing Change
Mental health awareness guest blog post by Adele Fox, Psychologist
Is what I’m experiencing called grief?
At some point in our lives there comes a time when we reflect back on what could have been, or what we could be doing now or in the future. This tends to occur when we are in the midst of a life transition or stepping into the unknown.
The world we are currently experiencing is causing many to take that time to reflect on how we live and how we want to live. Ultimately I believe we need to grieve the dream of what we thought our life would be, to give ourselves the room to create a new dream going forward.
The current world landscape as it pertains to Covid-19 is an opportunity to evaluate and grieve some of these dreams, as we are in an unknown transition.
With grieving can come an emotional roller coaster that if not understood, can cause undue stress.
Let’s look at one definition of grief: The conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
We have been thrust into the unknown. All of us have had our routines disrupted in some way. Whether that be a shift in how we work, having to have our children at home 24/7, restricted in our self-care activities, and on the most extreme end the death of someone we know. Coupled with this is the uncertainty of the future and how this crisis will change how our lives look.
The psychological stages of grief developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 is still a model we utilize today.
The 5 stages of grief
The 5 stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness and Acceptance.
If you apply our current situation to these stages, our emotional experiences start to make more sense and are normal.
Denial :“This is no big deal, it’s just the flu. This won’t impact us”
Anger: “How dare you or the government tell me what to do” or “I can’t do what I want.” Or “I had to cancel that vacation/wedding/event”.
Bargaining: “Ok, if I stay home for 14 days then I’ll be allowed to get back to my routine and everything will be fine?” Or “if I hang out with people I know that’s ok?”.
Sadness: “Will this ever end? I think about those worse off” or “I miss my friends, activities, etc.”
Acceptance: “This is real and happening so I will find a way to cope and get through it.”
Keep in mind these stages are not linear. We can move up and down through the stages like a game of Snakes and Ladders! But eventually if we keep trying we get to the top.
Acceptance is where all our positive power lies. It’s in acceptance that we have choice, and with choice we have control. We can wash our hands, make someone laugh, practice being in the present, spend quality time with our children, manage our social distancing, and develop new self-care approaches that we can do in our home.
It’s important to realize that in any type of grief process, it is temporary. It will not last forever therefore there is an element of control knowing that it will have an end point.
The 6th stage of grief
A 6th stage of grief was developed by Kübler-Ross’s colleague David Kessler. He termed it Meaning. I believe this is a valuable stage to understand and activate. It is the understanding of what we can take away from the loss we have/are experiencing. A ‘silver lining’ we can call it. The capacity for hope and the resilience of the human spirit comes from our ability to learn and grow from our experiences and understand a purpose in our suffering that we can use powerfully going forward.
There is meaning in this world experience we are going through, and an opportunity to manifest new dreams. Each person will derive their own meaning as it relates to them individually, and meaning as it relates to our communities as a whole. It is ok that you may not see the meaning just yet, as it may come much later when you least expect it. Remind yourself this is temporary, and implement acceptance (aka control) in a positive way so when the world reboots, you can reboot with it.
For many of us, we can reflect and experience some positivity in having to stay at home. However there are adults and children who are not so fortunate. For those that are currently living in unsafe home environments, please note the following 24/7 resources:
- Family Violence Hotline/Women’s Emergency Shelter: 403.234.SAFE (7233) or 1-866-606-7233
- Distress Hotline: 403-266-HELP (4357)
- Men’s Counselling Service: 403-299-9680
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-688-6868
- Teen Help Phone: 1-403-264-8336 (TEEN)
- Elder Abuse Hotline: 403-705-3250
- Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca/
Looking for more healthy living tips?
Check out these other articles related to COVID-19 health on our blog:
- COVID-19 Cooking: 30 Healthy Meal Ideas for Your Home
- Healthy Pantry Snacks and Staples for COVID-19 and Beyond
- COVID-19 Mental Health Awareness: Are you an Over-Responder or Under-Responder?
- Re-defining the Joy of Movement During High Stress Times
- COVID-19 Nutrition: Coronavirus Home Eating Guide
- Free Fitness Apps, Yoga and Meditation Resources for Adults and Kids
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Psychologist Adele Fox and her team provide comprehensive services spanning assessment, treatment and/or support for a range of mental health needs at any age. Specializing in a range of mental health needs, they will help you recognize your blind spots and stretch into more of your inherent abilities. Video, office and phone appointment available (daytime, evening, weekday and weekend availability). For more information visit: www.adelefox.com