In an effort to support small businesses through this time pandemic period (and beyond), I have become an affiliate member at Bookshop.org, a website that connects book buyers with independent booksellers nationwide. Any books I recommend on my blog will be linked to my shop page at Bookshop.org. I earn a small commission from these purchases. Bookshop.org will by book vendor going forward for all reading suggestions posted on ANCarroll.com. Links in my current reviews have been updated to connect to Bookshop.org.
Thank you for helping me play a part in supporting our independent bookstores!
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?
Patience is not simply the ability to wait–it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.
Self-isolation and social distancing require a great deal of patience. We have to wait out the run of a highly communicable virus. We have to wait out a difficult economic situation. We have to wait out loneliness. If we’re grieving, we have to wait out the chance to grieve communally and receive comfort for our loss.
After a loss, you may wonder if you did enough for your loved one, if you were nice enough, if you spent enough time with them. In their book I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye, Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair call this the “ ‘If Only’ game,” a mind game grievers play to control what feels out of control. No amount of beating ourselves up over events will change them. COVID-19 adds a new dynamic to this guilt game as pubic health emergency protocols prevent us from visiting the sick, saying our goodbyes, and grieving in community. Feelings of guilt may be more intense because we cannot be with our loved one’s bedside to offer a last bit of love to them as they pass.
No one can feel as helpless as the owner of a sick goldfish.
In a state of social distancing, we are living in a type of fishbowl, and sometimes a fishbowl within a fishbowl. We can’t do anything for our loved ones who are languishing from COVID-19. We can’t do anything for our family or friends who are watching their COVID-positive loved ones and waiting, from more than six feet, for one of two possible outcomes. We can’t offer hugs or a shoulder to cry on, we can only offer a voice and a virtual presence to others during their time of need.
In my forthcoming book, Untangling Life After Loss: A Griever’s Guide to Creating a Self-Care Plan, I offer suggestions for how to approach grief in your everyday life. COVID-19 has turned many of those suggestions sideways as social distancing measures throw a curve into what could be termed “normal” grieving processes. An experience that once required stepping back a bit from life’s busyness now must be recontextualized to fit a pandemic lifestyle built around confinement and distance. How do grieving practices translate for this new normal?
It’s only been a few weeks since social distancing measures were first employed in our state. It’s only been a few days since the governor enacted a “stay at home” order. For others, social distancing and shelter in place orders have been in place longer. Now, after the orders have been given and the novelty of being at home is wearing off, we have to begin the work of adjusting to our new reality.
We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.
This is a horrible and scary time. The majority of our society has never dealt with something like this before. Some lived through the Great Depression, where they saw more than toilet paper depleted from store shelves. Others lived through the turmoil of WWII, when homes were destroyed and food and goods were rationed. A few may have lived through the Spanish Flu of 1918. Through pandemics, wars, and the depletion of goods, somehow society and culture managed to survive.
It’s the first full week of “social distancing,” a new term in our lexicon that basically means “stay away from people,” in this case, by staying at home. While the death toll around the world increases, it’s easy to see where an observation about grief might fit. People are dying from a new and therefore easily communicable virus. However, this isn’t the only issue we face when it comes to grief.
Right now our resilience, our ability to recover from difficulties and to maintain mental toughness, is being tested by a pandemic. Every day we have to commit to renewing that resilience for another 24-hour period without certainty of when the current stressors will end. Though it might feel impossible at times, we can do it.
Resilience is not a trait that you are either born with our not. Resilience is a skill that you can strengthen and improve through daily work. Resilience does not mean that you feel no worry, anxiety, or stress. Resilience means that you persevere despite worries, anxieties, and stresses.
Our resilience will help us through this health crisis, and through whatever personal crises may result during or after this time. If you haven’t felt particularly resilient in the past, now is the time to work on building it up. Accept our current situation, adapt to the new normal in which we all exist, cultivate patience, release fear and judgment, and remain in the present moment.
If your resilience is faltering, focus on making it through each day and leave thoughts of the uncertain big picture behind. Each day is new. Each day you can begin anew. And each day allows you to build your resilience a bit more. Allow yourself a moment of sadness if you feel it, but return yourself to the path of resilience and let the sadness help strengthen you.
Resilience through adversity will help us maneuver through this time.
I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.
It is easy to become caught up in day-to-day activities and ignore our surroundings. It is especially easy to do this when swirling in the middle of grief. Sometimes we have to force ourselves out of our comfort zone (or current zone) to examine what is happening around us.
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.
The seasons are inevitable; we cannot stop them from coming no matter how hard we (or another) might wish to try. We cannot keep the cycle of change from running its natural course. Grief has its seasons as well, the hardest of which is the dark winter that swallows us immediately after loss. As is the nature of seasons, the winter of grief will return–sometimes it will be worse than previously, other times better.
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
Loss can feel like someone has cut all the flowers off their stems and left an ugly, empty, reminder of what once was. It may feel as though nothing good will ever come into life again. However, the seasons of grief move on their and bring us to a springtime that rekindles possibility and hope. Whatever obstacles may develop before us, they are not strong enough to the prevent a time of rebirth from emerging.
In short, No. More evidence for the “grief is unique” discussion is that grief manifests in various patterns, further confirming that we can’t (and shouldn’t) tell others that we know exactly what they are going through and that we have the perfect solution to “fix” them.