Cultivating inner stillness while grieving during a pandemic is difficult. However, finding stillness is necessary when processing grief and adapting to post-loss life. One way to approach the search for stillness is by taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday work and home responsibilities. When you are sheltering-in-place during a pandemic, there is no real opportunity to get away from things since you are confined to your home. How do you give yourself a break so that you can begin to cultivate inner stillness?
7 Ways to Cultivate Inner Stillness While Grieving in Isolation
Be sure to fall apart whenever you need.
A pandemic brings on stress and heightens emotions; it is not a time to practice stoicism. Give yourself space to fall apart when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. If you live by yourself, you can take time whenever you have it. If you live with others, you may want private time away from your partner/spouse and/or children to fall apart, but that may be hard to find when in isolation. Don’t be afraid to fall apart surrounded by others; they may be waiting for a sign that they can fall apart too.
Release any guilt you feel, especially regarding your inability to be by your loved one’s side.
You have absolutely no control over visitation restrictions to hospitals, hospice, and retirement communities during a pandemic. By not visiting, you aren’t doing anything wrong. In fact, you couldn’t have done anything differently. Use your time to channel your guilt into productive activities: write a letter to your loved one in which you express your feelings about your relationship, your loss, and your inability to be with them. Write a response from your loved as well. Consider writing out a scenario in which you detail the consequences of a visit in which you are exposed to COVID-19, contract the disease and/or spread it to others. Were the ramifications worth the risk? If your guilt is high and you cannot reduce it contact a bereavement professional through telemedicine.
Practice more self-kindness.
A pandemic is not the time to be overly self-critical. Find ways to be kinder to yourself throughout your day: take a long walk, have a treat, watch that movie/TV show that you’ve been meaning to see, linger on the phone/video chat with friends and family longer than usual, sleep in or go to bed earlier, etc. Be more forgiving of yourself as well for a lack of productivity around your home, for your inability to be with loved ones, and for your frustrations at social limitations. Remind yourself that kindness is not an achievement-based reward; we all deserve kindness from others and from ourselves. While isolating, no one is going to be kinder to you right now than you (especially if you live alone). Self-kindness is not self-indulgence, it is something that may soften your grief experience and a stressful pandemic lifestyle.
Keep as many healthy habits as possible.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be hard while living in accordance with containment measures. We may find ourselves snacking more, baking to reduce stress (and then eating our creations), watching more TV, and generally being more sedentary. Grieving during a pandemic may increase your need for comforts: more treats, more TV, less movement. Try to find some balance between your comfort and health needs: schedule a regular exercise time five days a week (for an afternoon walk), find one or two healthy meal options you can have daily, set aside time to devote yourself to grieving, have a regular chat night with friends, watch a show at night, have a mid-day treat, take an afternoon nap. Take a day off from household management and grief business to do something that reduces stress and comforts you. Developing new healthy habits may be challenging while grieving and in isolation, so don’t force new ones on yourself. Solicit help from your support circle by working out together (online), having regular conversations, or even cooking together via video chat, anything that keeps you focused on maintaining healthy habits.
Use your daily quiet productively.
If you find yourself with more quiet time than usual, avoid filling all of that time with virtual socializing or TV watching. Direct some quiet time each day to contemplation and personal growth. If you find yourself with less time (and more people around), consider: getting up earlier and enjoying a cup of coffee/tea/etc. by yourself in a quiet home, staying up later to read or write or engage in a hobby, or getting out of the house by yourself (by sitting in a yard or walking alone) at a regular time of day. To keep with social distancing regulations, you can add sitting and walking meditation to your daily quiet activities. To make your walk meditative, walk more slowly and deliberately as you contemplate your body’s movements, your surroundings, or a challenge that you are unsure how to handle. If you have children and need to take them with you, introduce them to walking meditation. Make the walk a sort of game or use it as time to discuss issues and feelings surrounding your loss and the pandemic. Kids will have thoughts and feelings about both and may need help processing their life experience. Use your quiet times to process your (and other’s) pandemic experiences and strengthen emotional intelligence.
Avoid social media and opt for meaningful online experiences instead.
Social media is full of stressful and negative content right now that will not help your experience of isolation or grieving process. Delete social media apps if you need to go cold turkey, or change your feed to focus on lighthearted material (like baby goats or craft projects) rather than news or politics. Find video chatting platforms that connect you with family, friends, bereavement groups and therapists. These encounters will help empower you during grief and will give you something to look forward to. (If you’re single, avoid dating apps as well since they may be more of a distractions at this point than a search for real connection.)
Treat your isolation like a vacation or staycation.
Getting out of town for bit while grieving to have time to focus on you grief away from daily responsibilities of work and home is helpful. Since travel isn’t possible during a public health emergency, try an isolation staycation. If you are working from home, take time off and go through old photo albums and reminisce about your loved one. Use the time as a retreat and sign up for online classes that teach you how to paint, bake, cook, embroider, dance, or meditate. Deal with the projects around the house that have needed your attention as a meditative activity. If you’re isolated with others, create a vacation-like schedule by taking advantage of streaming courses, performances, and tours. Find activities that remind you of your lost loved one and share those memories with your family. Order spa products for an at-home spa weekend. Get take-out every night for a week in a particular cuisine (order multiple meals at once to reheat each night) or plan meals in one cuisine for the week and spend time cooking. Have a mini-film festival. Purchase backyard games and water toys online and non-alcoholic drink mixes at the grocery store. Do what you can to bring the vacation home.
If the experience of grieving while at sheltering-in-place becomes overwhelming, contact a therapist through a telemedicine platform. Call your primary care physician for a recommendation and/or check with your HR representative (you may have a form of telehealth available to you through work).
And remember: you are doing a great job managing a difficult process is a very strange time.