Zanne Findley, a Trustee of Telegraph Hill Centre, has produced a booklet on healthy grieving in the time of Covid-19.
‘People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.’
Food for thought
Nothing could really have prepared us for the times we are living though right now. Everyone is dealing with uncertainty and we are all dealing with loss one way or another. Some losses like bereavement, redundancy or ill health are obvious, but there are the losses which are harder to de ine, such as the loss of personal freedoms or hopes for the future.
Grief & guilt
With all loss comes grief, even though you may not recognise it as such. You may feel numb or be sleeping badly. You may be feeling lonely or angry at other people who become symbolic of your situation.
Grief is not depression, but it can make you feel depressed, especially if you increasingly feel powerless or guilty. At the moment many people are grieving because of the loss of physical contact with their friends and families. Events are ‘virtual’ if they happen at all, and worst of all people who are sick, or dying, are separated from their loved ones.
The fact that so many personal tragedies are happening on such a grand scale creates a universal undercurrent of fear and grief which has unprecedented media coverage. Everyone inds themselves in impossible situations: fearful of being infectious, fearful of being infected and yet concerned for others too.
Many feel guilty about not doing more, doing the wrong thing or acting in a way that evokes the outrage of others. The dictionary de ines guilt as ‘a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence whether real or imagined’.
Guilt can become toxic if you take responsibility for things outside of your control or fail to recognise that you did the best you could in the circumstances.
Could I be grieving?
… even though I have not suffered an obvious loss recently?
Are your behaviours more extreme than normal? Are you eating more, hoarding more, drinking more or withdrawing from life? Are you feeling victimised by the situation? Are you experiencing a roller coaster of emotions?
Am I alone?
Most of us are grieving – or avoiding – some form of loss most of the time. It is not until you allow yourself to grieve healthily that you can move on. Avoidance or denial can lead to behaviours that are harmful to yourself or others. Strangely this current situation provides us all with an opportunity to allow grief and sadness to be accepted as normal, natural and not shameful.
Recent movements such as #MeToo and #Time to Change show that grief has no time limit, it is always felt 100%, always unique and can lead to mental health issues if not recognised.
How can I grieve healthily?
Do not judge yourself or compare yourself with others. Give yourself time to feel the difficult feelings.
Avoid being overly busy or constantly distracted. Do not isolate yourself for fear of being ‘boring’ or ‘demanding’.
Reach out to those you can trust for support. Do not project too far into the future. Evaluate whether you are being served by believing some of the commonly held myths.
Take steps to release yourself from actions, inactions or beliefs that prevent you from self healing.
Myth busting – familiar sayings that are unhelpful or shaming:
‘Time heals’ … not on its own. You need to take action too.
‘Grievers are best left alone’ … if sadness was more commonly shared then everyone would benefit both as giver and receiver.
‘Be strong’ … if vulnerability was more accepted as part of our humanity we would judge ourselves, and others, less harshly.
‘Don’t feel sad’ … we all have reasons to be sad sometimes and should not feel ashamed at expressing that.
Grief has stages … is a misconception, there is no set pattern, we all experience various emotions at different times and re-visit them as they are triggered by life events.
You could see this as a ‘pool of memories’ in which the essence of the person or situation remains, because ‘moving on’ with your life does not mean forgetting your history nor what has shaped you, it means accepting it as part of you.
How can I help others?
Listen to their story … accepting you cannot stand in their shoes as they cannot stand in yours.
Listen with your heart … without feeling a need to ‘fix’ them. Emotions can be difficult to hear, but you don’t have to remain impassive.
Ask what happened … most people long to talk.
Stay in the moment … they will know if your attention wavers.
Share your experiences of feeling vulnerable … when the time is right. It is as important to receive as it is to give.