What Is This Feeling?
What is this feeling?
As I sat down to pen this email, my first thought was to write about depression, which is a natural progression from last week's mailer about Pandemic Fatigue. I am seeing many individuals struggling right now and it is a worthwhile topic. However, last week COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations started to rise throughout the country; a friend's husband lost his nine year battle with cancer; we like many of you, debated about whether to travel home to celebrate Thanksgiving with grandparents or not; our son's college notified the students that remote learning would be how the Spring semester starts in January; and Governor DeWine implemented a travel advisory, limiting the number of people who can celebrate together, and established a curfew. In addition, I had the opportunity to attend the theatre production of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy's Reckless. While sitting in the 500 seat theater with approximately 35 students on stage and only 76 people allowed to watch in person, it hit me, this is real LOSS, this is GRIEF.
It is important to keep in mind that whatever loss you have experienced during this pandemic, it is personal to you. There is no need to compare your loss to someone else's or believe that there are only a few certain things that are appropriate to grieve over. Loss is loss.
Grieving can take many forms, it is highly individualized, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality, life experience, your faith, how you cope with things and how significant the loss was to you. Grieving takes time, so be patient with yourself allowing the process to unfold naturally.
Although loss affects us all in different ways, many of us experience the following symptoms:
Shock and disbelief - you may feel numb and have difficulty believing the loss is really happening.
Sadness - profound sadness is the most universally experienced grief symptom that can feel like emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry more than normal or feel emotionally unstable.
Guilt - you may feel regret or guilty for things that you did or did not say or do.
Anger - you may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
Fear - A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears, where you feel anxious, helpless or insecure. You may even have a panic attack.
Physical ailments - you may feel fatigue, nausea, have lowered immunity, experience weight loss or weight gain, have aches and pains or insomnia.
6 Strategies to Combat Grief
It is perfectly normal to want to withdraw from others and retreat into your own inner world, however engaging others is vital to healing from loss. It is important to express your thoughts and feelings when you are grieving. The key is not to isolate yourself. The steps in the grieving process include:
Acknowledge your pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can lead to complications such as, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other health problems.
Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. Your grief is your own and this includes the emotions you feel. It is perfectly normal to experience odd or disturbing emotions during this time. Simply acknowledge them and do not dwell on them.
Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you. It is very common to want to compare our grief experience with others, however, the loss and grief you experience is unique to you. Avoid looking to others to see if you are on track in your healing process.
Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you. We are created for connection. Being alone and feeling isolated can be very stressful. Be creative in finding ways to connect with others, such as phone calls, video/Zoom meetings, chatting on social media, taking a live class online, or attending religious services.
Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically. The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you will be better able to manage emotionally. Stress and fatigue can be mitigated by getting enough quality sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising daily.
Recognize the difference between grief and depression. Grief has five stages and you do not need to go through each stage in order to heal. It is also possible to shift back and forth between different stages before ultimately settling on acceptance.
- Denial: "This can't be happening to me."
- Anger: "WHY is this happening? Who is to blame?"
- Bargaining: "Make this not happen, and in return I will ____."
- Depression: "I'm too sad to do anything."
- Acceptance: "I'm at peace with what happened."
- Denial: "This can't be happening to me."
Grief is like a roller coaster. It might be helpful to think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows, rather than a series of stages.
It is important to know that these are suggestions and should not replace counseling or therapy. If you become overwhelmed, please seek the help of a trained mental health professional.
Suggested Journal Prompts
Expressing your feelings in a tangible or creative way is very beneficial. Here are some suggestions:
- Write about your loss in a journal.
- Write a letter expressing the things you never got to say or do.
- Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the good things that you remember or brought you joy.
When grief doesn't go away
If after some time passes and the emotions do not feel less intense or worsen, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression. It may indicate you need the help of a professional mental health provider.
Time For Some HAPPINESS
The cast of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 2018 production of You're A Good Man Charlie Brown performing the finale, Happiness.
(Yes, that is my son Matthew as Charlie Brown)
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!