Blog

The Tangled Web Of Grief In The Midst Of COVID 19

Grief simply put, but not as simply felt, is mourning the loss of how you know your world to be. And COVID-19 is all aspects of loss from physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual practices. The grief of COVID 19 has struck us in that extreme visceral manner that frightens us the most, as it’s been sudden, unexplainable, unending, expanding, and debilitating. 

As I have been physically distant while socially connected, I have commiserated as the hours, days, and weeks have passed in the loss of celebratory milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings; communal outings such as sports, concerts, festivals; and self care regimens such as gyms, salons, and barber shops that offer joy in the midst of the mundane. All big, not small, because each of these moments represent the lighter side, the sighs of relief, and the answered prayers to the heavy lifting and demands of life. 

However, there is another side of living that is just as tender and finds itself being stolen away by COVID-19, and that would be in the memorialized traditions of those recently and increasing in years departed loved ones. 

The thing with grief is not only does the mind remembers, but the body remembers too. And often times grief is triggered because your muscle memory detects it’s been here before when evoked by a current situation while your mind catches up to the recall and connection of when.  If you are an individual who is experiencing the death anniversary (angelversary) of a loved one, or within the intense year coined The Firsts without your loved one, or in the most unfortunate place of having lost a loved one where the rites of passage/arrangements of a funeral or memorial is being delayed or shifted; these unforeseen times of COVID 19 has created an intersecting and layered mess of grief (as though it needed to be more tangled than this process naturally is.)

So here are some reminders to help tend to the multifaceted grief within the COVID-19 times:
1.) Stay curious to yourself. Initially your only job is to notice your emotions and their associated thought. This does not equate to needing to do anything about it just yet…just NOTICE so you can lend a name, a physical sensation, an energy, etc. to your being. 
2.) Try as best you can to think back to the most recent time or last time you have been here (felt this) before (again… the body remembers as well.) This can help you to not minimize or displaced your grief and give yourself a more accurate measure of your needs in your grief process.
3.) Allow for your emotions to arrive and exit. All emotions need is the permission to be acknowledged and accepted and what follows is insight into your process of allowing them come and go. What eventually happens is you give yourself evidence that feeling your feelings will not be the demise of you, which decreases you experiencing yourself as an emotional threat. This evidence becomes your resourcing and reminder that you will be ok on the other side of the emotional tsunamis of the ongoing grief process. 
4.) Continue to honor your traditions in remembrance of your loved ones as best as you can in what feels right for you. For some it maybe turning inward and removing the noise of the news and social media. For others it may be the lighting of a candle symbolizing your loved one’s light and presence, or taking some time to look at family photos to reminisce. Or it could simply be finding a safe place for a moment to let your heart express it’s missing and longing for your loved one through tears. Your traditions may shift during these times, but they do not have to be lost.
5.) Reach out to family and friends in transparency about your grief. We are all being stretched in our new normal, so normal anniversary check ins or check ins specific to your loss may shift some. Try not to take it personal and use this opportunity to show up for yourself in sharing what you need in support. Because the people who love you still want the opportunity to love on you as best as they can. 
6.) Remember to speak your loved ones names through memories and the missing of them. There’s a fear of being a burden or “Debbie Downer” during the grief process, and this can heighten in these COVID 19 times where we are all aware of collective struggles. However, there is also a collective empathy on the rise because we are on the same emotional continuum together. Grief is a collective theme right now and transparency is the open door to a virtual support group many didn’t know they needed until authentic connection made it so. 

This leads me to my last aspect of grief I feel is necessary to mention.  Many people might find themselves feeling better in their grief process, amid the woes of COVID 19, and please understand this is normal as well. Often times in grief people feel alone, as if the world keeps turning as normal while their whole world has been halted to a screeching stop and forever changed. Being that the world, in a sense, has been halted and operating in abnormal and unfamiliar ways, it’s possible for a grieving individual to feel more understood and connected in this universal disarray. It is human nature to want to feel understood in our most vulnerable moments, and the grieving process carried the emotions of and struggle with the experiences of social isolating and distancing well before we all simultaneously held the grievances of Corona (COVID 19) 

Written by:
Shameitra N. Green, LMFT
Founder of Nexus Therapy

*Shameitra Green is a psychotherapist and founder of her private practice, Nexus Therapy, where she serves adolescents, adults, and families in Pearland. TX and surrounding areas. Shameitra’s client populations include individuals and families dealing with complex trauma and PTSD, survivors of neglect and sexual abuse, grief, and attachment disorders. Shameitra also provides trauma informed trainings and consultation to assist with agencies, schools, and trauma professionals in enhancing their trauma informed best practices.

Therapy: A Radical Act of Self Care and Discovery

Often times when we are culturally given permission to claim and stand firm in our mental, emotional, or physical spaces; we hear statements such as “Do You” or “Speak Your Truth.” But what often happens is this reclamation of independence is celebrated, until reality sets in that to “Do You” and “Speak Your Truth” comes at a cost. The cost of unraveling the “you” that was handed to you along the way through the relational lens of family, peers, career, spirituality, etc. 

At the unraveling stage of healing, you start to feel like a stranger to yourself which makes this thing called therapy, a resource to help you, feel like it’s the very thing that threatens you…. should you fight, flight, or freeze? No! You should stay and BE because this first stage is needed for you to learn how to not operate and respond on autopilot in all the ways you adapted through your survivor mode to past traumas or direct/indirect messages of how you accessorized others’ sense of well-being. This is the stage where you start to become aware and pay attention the “hmmms” and “ahhhs” of your intuition that you disconnected from or stop trusting at a certain point.

The bridge stage of healing soon follows which is the phase of healing where you start to feel a little more settled in your healing space and realize your resilience is stronger that your fear of unraveling…..and honestly you have already done the hardest part which is surviving. During the bridge phase, you start to recognize you can’t logic your way out of your emotions and you can’t feel yourself away from your thoughts. You need to connection of mind, body, spirit to honor and recognize the totality of your human experience through your wounds and your healing. In survivor mode, the bottom part of our brain becomes active as the upper parts shut down to prepare for the objective at hand to just survive some way some how. Our bodies and mind then continues to form a habit around what we know to work in our physical and emotional times of need, which is compartmentalizing or approaching life through “black and white” terms. The problem with that is while surviving works through compartmentalization, living and healing works through connection of whole being. The bridge stage starts to merge all the pieces of you and evokes the questions “what of my past do I keep because it informs and serves my direction, growth, and goals?” “What part of my past do I need to thank for getting me this far, but I now need to let go because holding it beyond it’s immediate purpose is starting to hinder my direction, growth, and goals?” 

The interdependence stage is the later phase of healing where you understand the importance of defining, re-defining, and claiming your own sense of self, while accepting that the quality of connection with others serve as a reflection and periodic self inventory to how you nurture or neglect your care of self. I intentionally did not state this as the end of healing, because healing is not a linear process and life is a delicate balance of surviving, existing, and thriving. The attention in this stage is on self-preservation. The rules for this stage are the development and re-development of boundaries. The practice of this stage is accountability. And the on going question of this stage is “where do others end, where do I begin, and do we make for a healthy or unhealthy blend?”

To walk into an unfamiliar space with an unfamiliar face to put into question the known of survival and/or dysfunction and commit to the unknown towards healing is therapy at its essence. Now THAT’s a radical act of self-love and discovery that deserves to be revered as the strength it is!

Written by:
Shameitra N. Green, LMFT
Founder of Nexus Therapy

*Shameitra Green is a psychotherapist and founder of her private practice, Nexus Therapy, where she serves adolescents, adults, and families in Pearland. TX and surrounding areas. Shameitra’s client populations include individuals and families dealing with complex trauma and PTSD, survivors of neglect and sexual abuse, grief, and attachment disorders. Shameitra also provides trauma informed trainings and consultation to assist with agencies, schools, and trauma professionals in enhancing their trauma informed best practices.