Covid-19 & Grief: A Collective Traumatic Experience
Have you felt like you’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately? While it may be no surprise that each of us is struggling in one way or another, there is something we all have in common: a pandemic. Whether it’s becoming a stay-at-home parent and teacher, or having your health, finances and career impacted — all while resisting the urge to stay under the blankets or create some massive plan to overcome this tragedy. We are still confused by why being asked to stay home has had such a big impact on our emotions. This is it: we are all currently experiencing a collective traumatic experience.
In the simplest of definitions, we experience trauma when there is “too much, too fast.” Which is exactly what is happening to us now. In what feels like both the longest and the shortest month of our lives, every aspect of our routine has been drastically altered.
Each of us has experienced numerous micro-losses, each by itself might seem insignificant and by itself might only have caused momentary disappointment, but when you experience multiple micro-losses in a short period of time it builds up and causes us to grieve these as a collective loss, which takes its toll.
You’re probably familiar with the 5 Stages of Grief model that explains grief as being a progression through a series of emotions – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. What you may not know is that we now have a better understanding that grief is much more complex than this.
Getting through the grief process involves vacillating through these and sometimes even other emotions. The process is different for everyone and will even be different for each person in different situations. In fact, the only part of getting through the grief process that is standard for all of us is that it takes time.
There are some things you can do to help you weather the emotional storm.
Name Your Emotions
In a study conducted by UCLA professor of psychology Matthew D. Lieberman found that putting feelings into words makes sadness, anger, and pain less intense. The study shows that when you are experiencing anger there’s activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for detecting fear and responding to danger.
When you put feelings into words, you’re activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala. In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light — when you put feelings into words you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses. As a result, a person may feel less angry or less sad.
As we practice naming our emotions, we are better able to respond to our feelings less reactively and more responsively.
Share your feelings with a loved one or journal about them to help you process them more fully. Science shows that sharing our feelings with trusted others helps us to gain a deeper understanding and helps us to process things in a more productive way than when we keep them inside.
Ask Yourself What You Need
After you have named your emotion, take a moment to consider what it is that you need in order to be gentle and caring toward yourself. This is deeper than the definition of “self-care” we have come to know. Candle lit bubble baths have their time and place, but sometimes the things we truly need are not the things that we care to do. Many of us do not find exercise to be a preferable activity but we know that it is important for our physical health.
Similarly, sometimes the things that are good for our mental wellbeing are not the things that are preferable. Having a good cry, finding a secluded place to scream, confiding in a friend, or asking for help are all things that can be very soothing, but they’re not always easy or comfortable.
Reach Out for Help
In the midst of this global health crisis, taking care of your mental health is important. Connecting with a coach that can help you process your emotions and plan for ways to move forward will make all the difference as we move through the coming weeks and months.
Finding our way through this storm is going to look different for each one of us. We can help you figure out what will work best for you so that you feel as though doing more than just surviving each day.
Utilizing peer support as part of your healing journey can be a total game-changer. At Empowerme: Coaching & Workshops, we have a series starting Thursday, April 30th — designed to help you develop meaningful insights about yourself and your inner workings.
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We are all currently experiencing a collective traumatic experience.
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