You’ve lost the love of your life and no one can hold you, are you serious?? The death of a loved one is an incredibly stressful and life-altering event. Right now, this is exacerbated one billion per cent. You are as alone as you ever could be. Grief is a very solitary and unique thing under normal circumstances but with COVID-19 blowing everything we ever knew to smithereens, people who are grieving are dealing with what I call the everything of emotions. I do want to preface this by saying that right now the entire world is grieving – in this we are united – we are grieving the loss of the lives of strangers from countries millions of miles away, we are grieving the loss of jobs, the loss of social interaction, the loss of economic freedom, the loss of money, the loss of amenities, the loss of education, the loss of touch and the list goes on and on. No one grief surpasses another, we all deal with grief in our own way and if you saw my Ted talk you will see that one of my utmost values is Judgement and that we should not. Grief is unique and tragically specific to each individual. A person who loses their job and therefore what they consider their identity could grieve moreover that loss right now than if their sibling died. We are all different and unique and no situation is ever the same. In that vein, I want to go through some completely normal and necessary responses to loss:
Physical Grief - Stomach pains, constipation, dizziness, pounding heart, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, weakness, hyperventilating, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat/chest, feeling heavy/weighed down, trembling or shaking.
Everything Emotions - This is where you feel all the things all the time, at once, in sequence or at certain times – Elation, surprise, pity, shock, anger, anxiety, shame, frustration, confusion, denial, relief, curiosity, depression, fear, guilt, disgust, irritability, loneliness, nostalgia, numbness, joy, hatred, moodiness, helplessness, sadness, envy, or yearning
Boomerang Thoughts - This is where you experience a variety of thoughts that refuse to be tamed or go away and just keep bouncing back again and again. This can include - confusion, fear of death, paranoia, fear of other people, overthinking every small decision, memories, longing for past times, blaming ‘god’ or the universe, self-harming, difficulty concentrating, disbelief and denial, sexual desires, brainstorming how to prevent this ever happening again.
So what can you do to help yourself? Firstly – PLEASE – allow yourself the time to grieve. Give yourself permission to shout, scream, cry, to feel numb or to suddenly to laugh out loud... This list is not all-inclusive – I am not a counsellor or a grief therapist, I am a human who has worked with hundreds of people grieving – below is my suggestions, might work for you, might not. No human is better or worse than another when it comes to grief and advise. Do what you can, when you can and you'll get through it, day by day, moment by moment.
Avoid self-judgment. There are no hard and fast rules and what works for one person will not work for another. STOP "should-ing" yourself – there is nothing you should or should not be thinking. If you are worried that your thoughts are dark at all please reach out to a professional…or me if you want to! I am always here to listen – zero judgement attached.
Eat well. An easy one for me, I always turn to food – eating, cooking and baking. Eating nutritious food is always important, but right now you need it more than ever. Sure it's ok to find comfort in an ice cream tub or a bar of chocolate or bag of chips, you don’t need to be an angel!, but balance it up by getting your vitamins in too. Cooking or baking can provide therapeutic benefits if you’re so inclined. If you're now cooking for one, I can imagine that is a serious mind shift – especially for partnerships that are decades old. Try experimenting with new flavours, new dishes, eat at new times or eat with someone – virtually if that is what is currently permitted. Somehow, some small way, get out of the routine you both had.
This will sound like an oxymoron coming from an Irish person but SAY NO to alcohol. It might seem like the best idea in the world initially, trust me I know, but unfortunately drinking alcohol can exacerbate feelings of sadness and depression. Alcohol will also interfere with your quality of sleep and likely to encourage you to snack and eat poorly and either over or under-eat.
Change your routine. Make a list of your ‘musts’ or daily tasks and then make a list of what you would like to do or have always wanted to do. This is your Magic & Must list (thank you JudyMay) and draw out a new routine incorporating these, even if limited right now. You can build slowly towards your ideal day.
Exercise. Get outside for a walk or a run, even if it’s a small walk around the block. Being outside and getting some Vitamin D from the sun is essential and will increase the endorphins flowing in your body. Try a new sport if you can/feel able. A bike ride can provide a lot of benefits – feeling that wind in your hair, sun on your face, speeding around seeing life happening can help get the good vibes going. Even getting out in the rain can be very invigorating for moods. Yoga or gentle stretching is another great indoor or outdoor activity you can do solo.
Sleep!! I have always maintained that a good nights sleep after a hot shower can cure all the worlds ailments. Ok so not QUITE true and it certainly won't erase the devastation you are currently feeling but it will give you the energy to get through another day. Sleep rejuvenates the body's cells and allows the brain to rest and when your brain has been overactive all day this is essential for good health.
Write, create or engage – use this time to express yourself and your thoughts on paper in a journal or in artwork. Maybe you could write a song or a piece of music. Talk to a friend you trust or use your phone to record your thoughts in an audio or audio and visual journal. Express yourself.
Go online and see who else seems to be feeling similar thoughts to you…there's a plethora of writing on the internet. Check out some grief support groups or online communities. You can also find yourself a therapist or life coach online that can help shape your thoughts and moods to contribute positively to you.
If you feel you are not eating or sleeping or drinking or eating or exercising excessively please seek a professionals help.