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Grieving the Loss of Normalcy During the Pandemic

Grieving the Loss of Normalcy During the Pandemic

For the last six months, COVID-19 and its effects have completely rocked our world and lives as we know it. Although COVID-19 is an epidemiological crisis, the result and all the changes that have come with it is bringing about a new type of crisis- a mental health one. Along with feelings of anxiety, sadness or uneasiness, many of us might be feeling a sense of loss or grief. Grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one or the end of an important relationship, but with the Coronavirus pandemic many of us have experienced the loss of our normal lives. This can include the changes that have come with mask mandates, not being able to see loved ones due to social distancing, working remotely, job loss, distance learning, etc. Sherry Cormier, PhD and psychiatrist states “it’s important that we start recognizing that we’re in the middle of this collective grief. We’re all losing something now. There’s a communal grief while we watch our work, health-care, education and economic systems- all of these systems we depend on-destabilize.” 

 

If you’ve been feeling the effects of this loss of normalcy but are confused as to why you’re feeling that way, it’s important to know you don’t feel attachments only to other people. You might feel attached to your specific routine, your job, or going to certain places that you love like the gym or out to your favorite restaurant with your friends. Robert Neimeyer, PhD and director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition states “we’re capable of losing places, projects, possessions, professions and protections, all of which we may be powerfully attached to,” he says. “This pandemic forces us to confront the frailty of such attachments, whether it’s to our local bookstore or the routines that sustain us through our days.” Many of the losses we’re experiencing now are called ambiguous losses. Neimeyer explains these losses have a lack of a single ending point like death. Since there is no concrete end point for the pandemic and its subsequent lifestyle changes, it may be difficult to move forward. 

 

Signs and Symptoms of Grief

Here are some symptoms and signs you might be grieving.

  • Feeling numb, empty or angry. 
  • Unable to experience joy or even sadness.
  • Preoccupation with loss.
  • Physical symptoms like trouble sleeping or eating, fatigue, muscle weakness, shakiness or lack of motivation.

 

Coping with Coronavirus Grief

Grief is hard in normal circumstances, but in these times it can be even harder especially when we’re unable to connect with those who might help us feel better. However, grief does serve an important purpose in our lives and can help you recognize the need to adapt. Here are some ways you can deal with your grief.

  • Pay attention to and accept your feelings. It’s okay to accept that you’re feeling a sense of loss or are grieving your normal life. It may help to write in a journal the things you’ve lost due to the pandemic. 
  • Allow yourself to feel the loss. The only way to let go of grief is by allowing ourselves to feel it and move through it. Allow yourself to cry, to be angry, whatever it is you feel. 
  • Name and Claim Your Grief. It may be hard to move through feelings when you don’t even know what you’re feeling. One study done by James Pennebaker, PhD showed that writing about emotional upheavals can improve both your physical and mental health.
  • Remind Yourself of Your Strength and Coping Skills. Sherry Cormier, PhD and retired Psychologist suggests keeping a journal and “name what you’re losing, individually and collectively. Write about your personal strengths and coping skills. Most of us have never been through anything like this, but we’ve been through other challenging transitions. It can help to write about how you got through a divorce, or losing your job, or other challenging transitions. How did you heal and recover?”
  • Stay Connected. Although social distancing is making it hard to see our loved ones, it’s not impossible. Use texts, phone calls or video chats to stay in touch with friends and family. Schedule family game nights over Zoom or go on a virtual museum tour over FaceTime with your best friend! Find ways to stay connected that work for you. 
  • Create an Adapted Routine. Having a routine can instill a sense of purpose and order back in our lives. Even if you currently aren’t working, try creating an adapted routine you can do daily. This daily routine can include activities that might help you cope like yoga, crafting, gardening or exercising. Try to also keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Limit Your News Intake. Remind yourself the Pandemic isn’t the only thing happening in the world right now, and constantly consuming news or social media might make you feel worse. Try to limit your intake by only checking the news or social media once a day. 

If you or someone you love is having trouble coping with the changes caused by the pandemic, consider seeking help from a mental health provider. Head to our website to learn more about our therapists and how they might be able to help you during this difficult time!