Grief. Yes, there it is. It took about one full week for this term to really set in and surface for me personally. If you haven’t lost someone due to Covid-19, you may think the term grief is a stretch, or unwarranted. But, if you haven’t considered it until now I want you to pause and ask yourself, am I grieving as a result of this massive life-change we are experiencing?
I believe you will find the answer is a resounding, YES. It’s a topic that’s been present in nearly all of my Teletherapy sessions and present in my own life on a daily basis since this epidemic began.
In order to get a handle on this emotional space we’re all navigating, we need to understand what grief and grieving actually are. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the Five stages of Grief years ago as a way to understand emotionally what someone may encounter when experiencing a loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This is a wonderful framework to understand what an individual may be going through emotionally throughout the grieving process, but it’s also important to look at grief as exactly that– a process. Grief isn’t something to “get over”; truly working through grief is the integrative process of a human learning to adapt our cognitive schema (our way of thinking and being) and feelings around a loss and incorporate the realities of those changes into our everyday living.
With the current pandemic at hand, we’re constantly shifting our thoughts and our expectations around to integrate the realities of loss of life as it was before into this new way of living in order to keep ourselves safe. We may experience waves of emotion- anger one day (or hour), depression the next. This is our new normal. Thinking we’ve got it understood or plunder control and then bam, a rule changes and/or emotion surfaces and we’re left to sort out and integrate all of it into present living.
The biggest thing to highlight and realize here, you’re not doing it alone. We’re all struggling right. Literally- everyone on the planet. However, many people are facing a new challenge in partnerships- having to navigate ones own grief, while also grieving together with a partner or family members. Here are a few tips on things you can do and keep in mind to make this as easy as possible.
- DO – Talk about it! Many issues within a couple arise when we run into assumed understanding of our partners and how they may feel. You need to talk about it. Also, just listen to hear, not to judge or respond.
- Understand that you may grieve differently than your partner or family members: The book Men Don’t Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes in Grief (1999) introduced the concepts of “intuitive griever” vs. “instrumental griever,” and the “blended” style of grieving. Intuitive grieving is feeling based: crying, talking, processing. Whereas instrumental grieving is doing-based: reading, exercising, cleaning. Blended grieving is the combination of the two keep those in mind while engaging in this activity with your partner:
– Create a list of your individual coping strategies are and then set a time to share them with each other.
– After sharing, take some time individually again and note how your individual coping strategies complement one another and where there might be friction or potential for conflict, then discuss.
– Together, brainstorm additional coping strategies that you could you engage in together as a couple that may help ease the grief
- Expect and plan for triggers (as well as you can)! Does someone in your family have a Birthday during quarantine? Might this thing last through Mother’s Day? Graduation or a wedding postponed? Keep these events in mind and know they will have emotional repercussions. Try to plan as well as you can to still celebrate and make these days special.
- Nurture your relationships! It’s important to continue to focus on each other. Plan a date night, picnic in your yard with the family, and virtual zoom or face time calls with friends or extended family. It’s important to stay connected to each other during these tough times.
How are you coping with Quarantine and all things COVID-19? If you need additional support, our therapists here at Northstar can fit you in for a Teletherapy session from the comfort of your own home- just give us a call!