It is an emotion we often don’t recognize.
Right now, I grieve for the doctors, nurses, every first responder and front-line worker living and working within the storm of this pandemic. I grieve with them as they Facetime with patients’ families so goodbyes can be said. I grieve with them as they isolate themselves from their family to keep them safe as they risk their own lives day in and day out.
I grieve with friends who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 or to natural causes because right now we can’t be with one another and mourn together.
This type of grief when we lose a loved one or friend, when we see what these brave first responders are going through, is recognizable. What is harder to see and to feel is our own grief at the changes in our lives because this grief masks itself as discomfort, anxiety and feeling helpless.
We know COVID-19 has changed our world in the same way 9/11 did. What we don’t know is what those changes will look like and that makes us anxious, short tempered and a little crazy. It’s these losses, the loss of our normal life, the loss of connecting with others, our fears for our health, safety and finances that we are grieving, and we don’t even realize it.
In fact, this type of grief even has a name. It’s called anticipatory grief and it’s the grief we feel when our life feels uncertain. I first wrote about anticipatory grief when my dog got sick and I didn’t think he was going to make it. In the anticipatory grief for Josh, I was stealing the joy we had in our day-to-day time together. I’m happy to tell you it has been a year and a half since he got sick and I am grateful he is still with me during my #socialdistancing.
To really understand the collective anticipatory grief we are going through and what we are feeling, please read this interview with David Kessler. The discomfort you’re feeling is grief. Mr. Kessler co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the book on Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages Of Loss.
Another emotion I am feeling right now is fear. Last week’s post addressed this issue: I feel so vulnerable right now in my fears over COVID-19. I struggled with writing another article on feelings, but this pandemic can heighten all of our negative emotions. Since nothing about this time is normal, the question I keep coming back to is, “How do you get beyond these difficult emotions?”
Finally, I am feeling adrift and alone in new ways. I’m used to living alone, but until this pandemic, I could meet friends for a meal, have them to my house to hang out or meet them someplace and listen to music. Probably the hardest part of #socialdistance is not being able to hug friends and family. I’m half Italian and along with being loud and talkative, we are big on public displays of affection (PDA’s). I really miss the heart-to-heart hold onto one another for a bit until our hearts beat in rhythm ended with a kiss.
Name and claim your emotions so you can take actions.
Now more than ever we need to name and claim our emotions, so they don’t paralyze us or steal our physical and mental health. Now more than ever we need to help our loved ones do the same.
As Brene Brown says, “When you name and give voice to your emotion, you can walk through it. It is in the naming of our fears that we have a way to handle our emotions. Emotions only take you down when you ignore and don’t name them.”
I have learned when I don’t name my emotions, when they just live in my head and body, they get bigger and bigger and bigger. When I name what is making me feel overwhelmed, what is making me feel out of control and fearful, I can think about solutions with clarity. Or just release them altogether because the chatter swirling in my head is gone. Even calming my mind for a little while helps my physical and emotional health.
Name your emotions.
Sometimes I name them out loud. Sometimes I write them down. But I never self-edit. My emotions are my emotions and I can have them no matter how outlandish they may seem to someone else.
I’ve learned this is such an important step for taking action and true growth, that I devote an entire chapter to it in my book “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.”
Share your emotions.
When I share my emotions with family or friends, I claim them. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic announcement. Giving voice to them: “I’m afraid I will find out that I was asymptomatic and carry the coronavirus to mom” or “I’m afraid what is happening with the economy will mean I won’t be able to stay in my home” takes away some of their power for me. Sometimes I come away with a different perspective.
Sometimes I just need them to “sit in the mud” with me. Wise advice from Denise Brown of The Caregiving Years. That’s when I’ll ask folks to give me grace, to just let me vent and not offer solutions or judge me. This, this, is the same grace we must give our loved ones. Don’t judge them or offer solutions when you ask them to name their emotions. Let them talk so they can release them. It is hard to do.
Take actions on the cause of your emotions.
My fear that I can be an asymptomatic carrier is not unfounded, but I can take actions to minimize the possibility. If I need to go out, I wear a mask and gloves. I wash my hands and change my clothes when I come home. I follow the sterile techniques outlined by Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen when I bring food, mail or packages into the house. I practice social distancing.
Not being able to be with friends and family means I need to find ways to be with them using technology. Phone calls using Free Conference Call and Zoom have been a godsend. I’ve had a cocktail party with cousins, a neighborhood group chat and have caught up with friends I haven’t seen in years. Blowing kisses and waving goodbye doesn’t replace that heart-to-heart hug, but I’ll take it.
I’m working on accepting the reality that I may not be able to stay in my home. Anticipatory grief is still a huge part of this acceptance, but this step gives me some control. I can put plans in place to look for a roommate, I can look for a part-time job, and I can clean out one drawer or closet shelf a day just in case I must move. In accepting this possibility, I have taken back my power, I am sleeping better and am open to new possibilities.
Name and claim your emotions then act on them. It helps keep them in check and keeps you physically and mentally healthy.Be well. Don't stand still in fear and grief. Click To Tweet