by Diana Brummer
Owner, Good Mental Health, LLC
As we enter the 3 phase transition plan for reopening our society following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are excitedly anticipating a return to “normal life.” With a safe reopening weeks away, once it does arrive, it will be a totally new normal we are returning to. Going forward, we will refer to this experience as “before and after." COVID-19 has challenged us and changed us, creating disruption in our routines, and uncertainty about the future.
Letting Go with Compassion
During this time of lockdown and social distancing, vital experiences have been missed. Students have spent their fourth quarter of the school year away from their campus, teachers, friends, and activities. Seniors have missed important events and opportunities such as prom, grad bash, and spring sports. It remains to be seen whether postponed graduation ceremonies will be able to safely proceed as the summer unfolds.
Non-essential businesses shut their doors and risked their financial solvency to keep the community safe. Essential workers continued to report to work, risking their personal health so that their neighbors could access the vital services they provide. We have begun wearing masks.
We have all been asked to give up pieces of ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you were a greeter at church, a school volunteer, a little league coach, or the social organizer for your friend group, we have all experienced the loss of the roles we once held before life changed.
And with loss comes grief
Grief expresses itself in many ways. It can feel like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and stress. It can display as sadness, anger, ambivalence, or a combination of these. Behaviorally, we may withdraw from, or lash out at, those close to us. We may be drinking too much, exercising too little, sleeping too much or not enough. It may be difficult to stick to a daily routine or find joy in the activities that are available to us right now. It may be hard to connect to the people we need most.
We may compare our situation to others, and decide we don't have it as bad as those in other parts of the world. We begin to deny the validity of our difficult emotions and feel shame or guilt for having them at all. By denying that our grief exists, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grieve what's been lost and to ultimately heal.
The New Normal
Human beings are resilient creatures. We can bounce back from extraordinarily difficult things. But in order to do that, we have to allow ourselves space and grace to process our difficult emotions. We do that by acknowledging they exist, allowing ourselves to feel them, and speaking them out loud to a trusted friend, support person, or to ourselves in the safe pages of a journal or in our own minds while we reflect.
Let's allow ourselves to grieve what was, then imagine what our new normal might be. We can harvest the good from this difficult experience-increased time with our families, learning we are capable of (and maybe enjoy!) working and learning remotely, witnessing the solidarity of the human race as we truly are all in this together but separately. Let’s perhaps recalibrate our priorities based on a new appreciation of the fragility of life and design a vision for our future that is not only different but better than before.
If you are struggling emotionally during this difficult time, please visit our website at www.GoodMentalHealthLLC.com for access to relevant blog posts, local resources, or to schedule an appointment. For the safety of our community, all upcoming appointments will take place by phone or online via video chat.
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