Managing Our Losses During this Time
Recently, we have all experienced loss of some sort. We’ve lost our freedom to move about without an increased awareness of risk. We’ve lost physical closeness with those we do not reside. We have lost in person gatherings due to our current “Safer at Home” orders. Each of us can create a list of our current and future (anticipated) loss. The reality is, no matter what losses we are personally experiencing, grief is a normal and expected reaction. Grief can show itself in a variety of ways in our lives; physically, spiritually, and emotionally. There is no one right way to respond to your loss. In fact, the most important thing you can do for yourself right now is to acknowledge that you are experiencing loss and begin to take notes about how you are feeling and expressing grief. As you notice your responses, you will be more able to take the best care of yourself.
It is not helpful for us to compare our loss to each other. What feels small to one person might be the big loss for another. If you find yourself in this situation on either side try to remind yourself that your shared experience is grief. You are both responding to loss that is important to you. When we remind ourselves of this, we are more able to support and care for each other. It can be very difficult to resist fixing hard situations and acknowledging strong negative emotions like sadness and fear. As humans and caregivers, we are wired to decrease suffering. By acknowledging the feelings our loved ones are expressing we validate that what they feel is real and important and we can assist them in working through their losses.
Once we recognize what we are experiencing is grief we can find ways to decrease our suffering and support those around us. First, create space in your life to manage the experiences of grief. Your sleep can be affected, your eating patterns can change and you might be experiencing a wide swing of emotional responses. All these are perfectly normal. Don’t forget that many of the emotions associated with grief require physical attention to manage; exercise, sleep, healthy eating will all support the body as it experiences grief. Other strategies for managing difficult feelings include; creative arts, journaling, talking to others and creating meaning in your loss. It might feel too new right now to identify positives that are going to emerge, a gratitude practice can help us to focus ourselves on the good that is still present in the world. It can also help us to acknowledge that family gatherings may be different for a while. Some families may choose and have the ability to celebrate together by using technology such as enjoying a meal together while staying in their own homes. If you are unable to use technology to connect, perhaps you can share your menu or recipe for your favorite food item and include this in your household meal that day. Or you can send a note or text or call to share a memory of a prior family gathering that brought you joy with those you are unable to be with in person. Remembering a happy memory releases in our brain the same “feel-good” chemicals that flooded it at the time of the actual experience. Yes, family gatherings will be different but with a little creativity we can continue to connect with our family members while following recommendations to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Take some time to think about how you and your friends and family are handling the challenges of this pandemic. During this time connect with loved ones by phone or video chat to support one another. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Call SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. UW-Madison Division of Extension Lincoln County has assembled a collection of resources to help with the financial, physical, emotional, and social implications of the current health crisis. Resources are available at lincoln.extension.wisc.edu and are being added to regularly as the situation evolves.