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The reality we are living in happened so quickly, and while most of us focused on preparing our fridges, freezers, and storage spaces, I’m not sure many of us had time to emotionally prepare for this season. I’m not even sure how we could have done that. Years is the amount of time the emotional preparation for this type of global event takes, not weeks. But here we are.
We’ve almost stumbled through another month, and social distancing, isolation, and constantly monitoring for symptoms, have become the new normal.
Most of us have come to the realization that this will not be completely ending anytime soon. We’ve navigated our way through a month and a bit of working from home, online appointments, and calls from friends. Does anyone even remember what it feels like to not pick up food and shopping purchases curb side? We’ve bought masks and sanitizer, we’ve stood in lines to enter grocery stores with bare shelves and anxious people (who give you sometimes scared, sometimes angry looks if you come around a corner too quickly and find yourself within six feet).
Some of us are tired, some of us are frustrated, some of us are just sad.
There are a lot of ways to feel with how things are currently sitting, and sometimes the emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to drown them out with tv and tasks at home. We always find ways to fill space, because silence and processing is hard, but I’ve realized over the last little bit that every emotion we don’t take time to process, or consider, comes back.
For me they’ve come back in the forms of insomnia, heavy chest and heart palpitations (yah, that would be anxiety…), stress acne, and a sense of being paralyzed with no way forward and no way out.
I’ve tried to keep pressing on, setting better routines and rhythms, working out and eating well, self care that anyone would be envious of. I’ve done the face masks, the yoga, the breathing exercises, but after my nighttime routine of sleepy time tea and calming sleep stories is over, the point where I’m suppose to succumb to sleep, I find myself wide awake. The minute I finish the breathing exercises, my heart rate accelerates again, and it feels like someone is sitting on my chest.
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So if this pandemic world is the new normal, how do I begin to process what I’m seeing and feeling?
At this point I’m more concerned that my emotional and mental state will be my undoing before nursing during a pandemic will be.
I don’t have all the answers, but who does right now? Everyone is different, but I think we all need healthy ways to begin to process the trauma, the grief, the anger we might be feeling, but also ignoring.
I know from my past experiences that sudden and unexpected grief is one of the most challenging things to work through, and I think grief may be one of the biggest things we collectively as a world are facing.
I also know that grief is very personal and that in this season grief may have been brought on by something different for each of us: the physical loss of loved ones whether by death or by physical distancing and social isolation; the loss of jobs, friends, financial security, weddings, funerals, trips, or celebrations. Life looks different then we thought it would in 2020 and we have all given up many things.
Processing through grief takes years at best, especially when it’s multi faceted. Grief never actually leaves, but it does change, and it does get easier to carry some days, but it’s important to do the hard work, to press in so that you can press through and build resilience. Emotional well-being is so important, and starting to work through our grief will ultimately help us to feel stronger.
Related: The Intricacies of Large-Scale Grief
Here are some practical ways to start processing what you may be feeling in this season:
1. Let yourself feel without judgement.
Feel big, feel small, feel nothing. Just notice what you’re feeling, maybe call it by name if it has one that is familiar to you, maybe just call it how it’s presenting (“hello tight chest, I feel you”). You don’t have to sit in anything for too long, but acknowledge it as neither good nor bad, just say hi and let it be.
2. Don’t dive into too much too fast.
It can be tempting to bulldoze your way towards emotional healing and well-being. It’s a process though, and sometimes a long one. You need the right supports in place to help you navigate whatever comes up; sometimes we can be surprised by what needs to be processed through as we start the work. There’s an analogy that is sometimes used in the mental health world comparing human beings to pop bottles. We have lots inside of us and when we’re under stress everything gets shaken up and tossed around. Most of us know that with a pop bottle when things get shaken up and tossed around and then opened all at once, we’ve got a mess on our hands. This also applies to emotions and trauma, we’ve been through a lot and there’s pressure built up inside. The mess from pulling the lid off of every emotion and trauma we have right away will be a lot. It’s better to go slow, opening the lid little by little, letting some of the pressure out, processing it, letting it diffuse, and then going back to let out a bit more.
3. Build your support team.
This is easier said than done in this season. I know community and connecting is not the same as in our pre-pandemic world. It’s still important though to surround yourself with trained professionals, friends, and family who can lift you up. Counselling is different online but is still an effective and safe way to process emotions. Talking with friends and family who are safe spaces and are feeling emotionally healthy can help you to begin to process what you’re experiencing. Be gentle with your community though, and take advantage of online platforms to maybe connect with different people than you normally would have. It can be a lot for one person right now to emotionally carry another, so be understanding and show grace if you are not feeling supported in the ways you need to be. We are all learning how to do this best in this season.
4. As always have grace for yourself
This journey through your emotions, and the experience of processing grief is not easy. It may knock you down in ways you didn’t know were possible. You may have to feel lower than you already do before you are able to heal and move forward. Be kind and recognize each and every step towards emotional well being as something worth celebrating.
Closing Thoughts on Grief
The specifics of this journey will look different for all of us, we may feel alone, but this is actually the first time in a long time where most of us are not alone in our grief. We’re unified as a globe in a profound and life altering way. The work we have to do individually will be challenging, but what an incredibly strong and resilient group of humans we will be if we start the work now.
Feel what you need to feel, press into the hard things, ask for help, and keep on fighting forward.
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