If you are grieving at this time, know that you are not alone. Grief is the natural emotional response to any sort of loss. Whether having to do with something in your personal life or with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and everything that is happening as a result of it), it’s completely OK to be distraught during this unprecedented time.
The Five Stages of Grief™ developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, “On Death and Dying,” consists of denial, acceptance, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While they are important to know in normalizing loss, grief is a very nonlinear process and affects individuals in nuanced ways.
Here are three expert-recommended ways on how to handle your grief during this tumultuous time.
1. Accept That You Are Grieving
First, understand that you are grieving. Kristin Meekhof, LMSW, a therapist and the author of the book, “A Widow’s Guide to Healing,” says, “One can acknowledge their grief by understanding a loss occurred and it is a significant event in one’s life. An emotional wound was created and those feelings that accompany the wound can be hard to deal with and the void cannot be replaced.”
It is normal to be experiencing a variety of symptoms while grieving. This pain can negatively impact your physical and mental health for some time.
“One may feel a loss in identity, inability to focus, lack of motivation and disoriented, as if they are living in a fog. It is not unusual for new fears to develop because grief is often fear based,” Meekhof says.
Physical symptoms may include fatigue, tiredness, an upset stomach, muscle tension and more. If you are experiencing the above after a loss, it is likely you are grieving. Accepting your grief is very healthy and will help you deal with it as opposed to pushing it away. Pushing your grief can be detrimental to your mental health, both short-term and long-term.
2. Share Your Grief With Someone
Sharing your grief with trusted individuals can be helpful when you are dealing with intense emotions.
“Sharing one’s grief is an important part of healing, and it can provide comfort when people are able to respond in a supportive and nurturing way,” Meekhof says.
Start with sharing your feelings among your loved ones. Consider sharing through other healthy avenues as well, such as with a therapist or an online grief support group. Meekhof recommends grief support groups that are facilitated by licensed professionals.
“Grief support groups can offer a way to feel less alone because the loss creates emotional — and in the case of COVID-19 — physical isolation. Group members can offer ways to cope with stress related to the loss, and can give understanding,” she explains.
3. Find Some Silver Linings
It takes time to heal from grief. In the aftermath of your loss, it is natural to feel demotivated or hopeless. However, finding meaning in the smallest of activities can help you maintain a hopeful outlook in your mourning.
Meekhof said, “A silver lining offers a bit of light during the dark periods. It offers both warmth and optimism and can remind people that love still exists in the world.”
During this unprecedented time, silver linings can be immensely difficult to find.
“During the pandemic, the world of the bereaved is very constricted due to social distancing and grief, so the isolation is extremely intensified,” Meekhof says. “Being reminded that hope is powerful and possible during a pandemic is important because it reminds us that goodness still exists and opens us to opportunities to heal.”
While isolated, find silver linings to honor and preserve memories of your loss — whether it was a death of a loved one or a job furlough. Create a memorial fund, donate your skills as a volunteer, or even create a memory book. Regardless of what the activity may be, know that this practice helps you work through the new reality of life.