(This story was submitted by Lauren Aldred, Manager, Spiritual Health in Prince George (currently on leave))
Pandemic times are hard. Being aware of the ways we cope with loss and crisis as human beings can help us be a little more patient and kind toward one another. Understanding why we’re having irrational thoughts and unexpected emotions could also help us to stick with recommended measures, such as physical distancing.
The COVID-19 pandemic and grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross noticed that mourners move through five stages as they work through grief. For me, I'm observing that some of the things we human beings are doing during this pandemic fit well into these five categories:
The stages of grief are not always worked through in this order, and we may move back and forth between the stages several times.
On social media, and perhaps within our circle of family and friends, we see those who deny the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the brain trying to cope with the loss of our freedoms and the activities we enjoy. Denial is a common defense mechanism in which we numb our emotions and hide from the facts.
The pandemic has interfered with many aspects of our lives. Celebrations have been cancelled. Movie theaters are closed, concerts are cancelled, and parks were off limits. We miss the hugs and affection that are part of our usual routines. Our emotions are heightened and some of our regular stress-coping strategies are unavailable. We may feel somewhat irritated, deeply disappointed, or absolutely enraged. All of these feelings are normal when we’re grieving the loss of our regular lives.
Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, "If we all get cloth face masks, maybe we can have a party," or, "There have been low numbers of COVID-19 cases in our region, and I'm feeling fine. If we have the windows open, my friend and I can go for a drive." When we do this, we are trying to rationalize or "bargain" our way out of these challenging circumstances.
It’s normal to have times of low energy, sorrow, and tears during a pandemic. If you’re finding life difficult, it’s not a personal failing – we’re all dealing with an abnormal situation for which none of us are prepared. If you find that you’re sleeping most of the day for days on end or feel like you are unable to cope, please reach out for help.
There will be times when we’ve worked through the stages of grief and feel a sense of acceptance. We come to understand that this situation is one that we must deal with and start using strategies to stay well in the midst of this global crisis.
David Kessler writes that there is a sixth stage to the processes of grief and loss: meaning-making. When you look back over the last month or two, are there incidences that have meaning for you? Has there been a blessing hidden within this difficulty?
Many have reached out to loved ones and reconnected. Some have started a self-care practice. Others have come to a realization of what matters most for them.
How has this crisis impacted you, and what good may come out of it?
Access additional supports
Are you looking for additional support? These may be available in your community, via your health care provider, or through your employer.
- Do you need help right away? Call the Northern BC Crisis Line at 1-888-562-1214 or text 250-563-1214. If you're considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be, please call: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or visit https://crisis-centre.ca/faqs.
- Foundry BC is offering virtual drop-in counselling for young people ages 12-24 and their caregivers. To book your appointment, call 1-833-FØUNDRY (yes, that’s FØUNDRY with a zero) or 1-833-308-6379. Sessions are available through voice, video and chat. Visit https://foundrybc.ca/virtual for more information.
- Visit www.mentalhealthweek.ca to learn more and find tools to help with this challenging time
- Check out the Government of BC’s Managing COVID-19 Stress, Anxiety & Depression page.