Grief is often characterized by not being able to see the path forward and a feeling of hopelessness. COVID-19 challenges our health, economic, and social systems.
Trauma is characterized by a feeling of helplessness in an unpredictable situation. In addition to grief, many of us are feeling the effects of trauma, due to the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic and associated lockdowns. COVID-19 is sweeping through our reality. Governments and communities are scrambling to keep up with rapidly changing developments.
For those who were already grieving before this pandemic or for those whose loved ones have died as a result of the corona virus, quickly evolving policies and game plans are adding another element to bereavement and mourning.
Isolated but together may be how we describe the human condition during the current pandemic. Whether we are secluded alone or with others, taking care of ourselves with routines and paying attention to our needs, is a way to feel empowered during these uncertain times:
PHYSICAL (the body) It’s easy to fall into a habit of not taking care of ourselves when we are feeling out of control. Be sure to include healthy eating and drinking water. Also, listen to your body and take the time to cry, sleep, and talk/text/draw/exercise through your feelings. Stay active by getting outside, walking up and down stairs or stretching – do what you are able to.
MENTAL (the mind) Concentration naturally decreases when we are stressed, try not to worry about feeling “scattered” at times. Declutter areas in your home and attempt to keep your thoughts in the present moment, instead of in the future.
EMOTIONAL (the heart) It’s natural and normal to feel sad by the losses that have been thrust upon us during this pandemic. Once you have given yourself time to feel your emotions, surround yourself with love and kindness, as well as laughter. Of note, anger is a normal and natural part of grieving, especially when we feel threatened and the need to defend ourselves.
SPIRITUAL (the soul) This part of you seeks purpose and meaning in life, connecting with the divine of all religions/traditions. In addition to prayer and meditation, practice gratitude and kindness. Consider joining a prayer chain or healing meditation group.
Practical Measures: Taking deep breaths helps to ease physical sensations created by anxiety & intense feelings:
Focus on the Breath … Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 2 seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 6 seconds.
On death and dying: Now is a good time to address your end of life wishes. Check sites like www.advancecareplanning.ca , www.dyingwithdignity.ca , or www.SpeakUpOntario for more information.
Now may be the opportune time to heal past relationships. Consider a text, email, letter or phone call to those you may not have spoken with in a while, due to past issues. Forgiveness is possible when we separate the person from their actions; this does not mean we condone harmful actions.
Sadly, due to physical distancing limitations, some of us won’t be able to be at the bedside of our dying loved ones or attend their funerals. Now is a good time to remember physical distance doesn’t separate our love, relationship, or connection with the people in our lives.
In the absence of the opportunity to comfort loved ones at end of life or to mourn at funerals, consider a visualization meditation that sends intentional energy to those you wish to connect with:
💖 Gather any pictures or objects that have meaning for you, especially as they represent a connection to your special person. Light a candle and/or play music that reminds you of your loved one.
💖 Find a comfortable, quiet spot and close your eyes. You may want to close your eyes tightly or lightly “soften your gaze” so that your eyes are slightly open.
💖 Picture the person in your mind and recall the love you feel for them. Be aware of the connection you have and send that feeling to your person. It may help to visualize a colour, a ribbon, or a beam of light leaving your heart area and attaching to your loved one.
💖 Breathe deeply and know that your intention is powerful energy that connects and binds you to the love and light within the person you love.
💖 The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to send your love, do what feels comfortable for you and know that you are capable of connection without being physically close to another.
Beannacht: A Blessing for the New Year, John O’Donohue
(Author of Anam Cara, meaning “soul friend”, a Celtic concept in religion and spirituality)
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green and azure blue, come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a low wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.
(Note: Beannacht is the Gaelic word for Blessing. A currach is a large boat used on the west coast of Ireland).
Virtualhospice.ca (lists services and supports available, grief & palliative topics)
Crisistextline.ca (free 24/7 support via text)
Suicide prevention and support (1-833-456-4566)
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness” Desmond Tutu