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Girl wearing a mask sitting on her porch during the coronavirus lockdown.

A COVID Grief Check-In: What We are Grieving + How We are Processing

Alright, so we are 17 months into this pandemic (but who’s counting?!), and I am personally experiencing some new, yet familiar, waves of grief and fear. As I talk to friends, colleagues, and clients, I am hearing that I am not alone in this.

My friend and colleague Lindsay Camp and I wrote a blog about processing COVID-related grief in April 2020. Find it here! All of this still stands true and relevant.

And, now, months later, there is more complexity to COVID-related grief.

Grief is Complex

Lately, clients have been sharing the ways they are shocked, sad, angry, frustrated, scared, and so on. They thought we were doing better, that things were better and safer (re: COVID cases and community immunity etc.). And now, we are here. Things at the collective level are, in many ways, not better.

I am learning more and more that grief is complex and dynamic, and this roller coaster graphic speaks to me and puts this idea into a visual. 

What have you noticed about the different layers of grief over time? 

I don’t believe we go through stages, leaving one stage behind when we get to the next. Rather, there are layers that are stacked and interwoven. And we don’t move cleanly from one layer to another. It’s messy; grief is always messy.

This blog has been on my mind for the past few weeks, and it’s no shock that it’s felt difficult to write. This is my own grief showing up. So I reached out to my community (via IG) to ask others how they are experiencing grief during this time.

What Are We Grieving in the Current Moment?

These are some of the things we are grieving:

  • Having a social life.
  • Inability to receive comfort from my mom and sister because they can’t see my point of view.
  • My smell. Life is different when things don’t smell right.
  • Ignorance. The pandemic opened my eyes to a A LOT that I didn’t have to deal with before.
  • Anxiety of large crowds.
  • My children’s loss of connection to others.
  • Another birthday likely under restrictions.
  • Time to grieve.
  • Isolation! Loss of community/support network.
  • Physical touch. I really do better when I’m around people all the time.
  • Feeling any kind of joy in public spaces.
  • It’s like a group project where you’ve done your part and are waiting on the other group members to do theirs. Your grade depends on their participation. Except it’s humanity NOT A GRADE.
  • Going into public/community without obsessing over how busy it might be, what time of day to go, etc.
  • Thinking school would feel more “normal” and “safe” this year, and it doesn’t.
  • Solidified division between friends and family. I knew we were different, but it’s still sad.
  • Cancelling travel plans and gathering in groups. The constant risk assessment.
  • Friends have different values/COVID safety behaviors, and we are drifting apart.
  • Grief about school being cancelled last year is bringing up fear about this year being cancelled.

What are you adding to the list? Anything here resonate with you?

How Are We Processing Our Grief?

These are some of the ways we are processing our grief:

  • Not.
  • Lots of crying and phone talking with friends.
  • Keeping myself as busy as possible to distract myself.
  • Not well.
  • Lots of distractions and enjoying the little things.
  • Talking with my husband and therapist. Working with my hands. Meditating. 
  • So much rest and ritual.
  • Therapy. Screaming into the void.
  • No time to.
  • Writing.
  • Sharing with you. (Oh, friend, I am honored! Thank you for being there for me to share with too!)
  • Lots of walking/reflecting. A podcast I like applied stages of grief to covid, and that added up for me.
  • Acceptance.
  • Feeling a lot more anger this go around. Gotta start limiting FB time. Also, need a craft!

What are you adding to the list? Anything here resonate with you?

I want to pause here to acknowledge that the compounded grief and change in access to community and support is very, very real. It’s no wonder that some of us feel like we cannot process, don’t have time to process, and/or have run out of tools for processing.

A Few Tools for the Journey

There are no quick fixes or easy ways out of grief, and the end of the pandemic is a huge unknown. This is hard! It’s really hard. AND one step at a time, one moment at a time, we are trying to move through it all. 

These are 2 tools that have come up for me recently that I want to share for your toolbox or back pocket:

  1. This Routes of Safety map/model.
  2. Create a crisis plan. (There’s also an app called Safety Net you can use to create a plan.)

Additionally, this is a comprehensive (but not updated) list of resources for self-care, mental health, creativity and more.

Sending you so much care!

*Photo credit: rawpixel

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