How To Cope With Loss And Grief In The Era Of COVID-19
I've been avoiding having to write about the subject of grief and loss during the era COVID-19, but now that it hit so close to home, the subject is inescapable. Two weeks ago today, the matriarch of my family, my beloved grandmother entered eternal rest. "Ma," left this earthly realm peacefully, on "the 21st day of the 21st year of 21st century," just one month and one day shy of what would have been her 79th birthday. When I got the news that she had been really sick around Christmas time, I had already been preparing myself for what was to come, but that didn't make her eventual passing any easier. The simple thought of our Queen no longer being here in physical form brings me as much pain as it does peace. The wisdom, priceless memories, and agape love that she showered us with are more than enough to carry us through for lifetimes to come. Although we are in mourning, we are celebrating her beautiful legacy by leading a life of faith, dignity, and intentionality. My grandmother's untimely departure leaves an incredible void in my heart, but I know that with God's strength, my family and I will get through it.
Collectively, we're all in some sort of grieving process whether it's the loss of a loved one, a job, personal freedom, a relationship, health, or merely having to let go of something/someone that meant a lot to us. Coping with a loss is never easy, but it's ten times more difficult dealing with it in the midst of a pandemic. It's extremely stressful and overwhelming having to adapt to a year plus long lockdown, coupled with being physically separated from friends and family, making it much more challenging to properly process everything that's going on. With all of the uncertainty and drastic changes in our daily routines and just life in general, it creates a lot of emotional unrest and anxiety. A vast majority of the population did not even have the option of being by their loved one's side before they transitioned, or had the opportunity to pay their respects; given the COVID restrictions.
While going through my own personal storms, I've been thinking about how we can work together to build a support system for the countless people who are all experiencing this.
Here are some things I have come up with to give us some hope during these unprecedented times:
Identify and acknowledge that these are not normal times
I'm traveling back home this evening for my grandmother's homegoing services and it's mindblowing how drastically life has changed in such a short amount of time. Coming from a big family, we're so used to being around everyone and being able to comfort one another in times of distress but now everything we do is a calculated risk. Something as simple as flying requires mask-wearing the entire duration of the flight, filling out a travel form and/or a health screening, and some states/countries may even require evidence of a negative COVID test that was taken within 72 hours of travel. Not to mention, large gatherings like funeral arrangements/services are limited to a certain number of people, and folks are now having to grieve virtually on Zoom to avoid the possible spread of the virus.
It's a sad sad time to say the very least, and things probably will never go back to normal or get any easier, but we must do our best to comply with this new way of life. The first lesson in all of this is acknowledging that we are in a different time and that we are all doing our best. As hard as it is, we have to find solace in knowing and making peace with the fact that the world that we are living in is ever-changing, but even here, we can cultivate joy, and find hope, even when we don't understand. We have to find new ways to bring comfort to our lives and switch up our normal routines. The ways that we used to relate and connect with each other have changed, and that sucks royally, but the only way to survive and thrive at this moment, is to change our mindset.
Understand that your feelings are valid, and give yourself permission to grieve
We must normalize that it is okay to be human, and accept the fact that at some point we have or will go through grief, and that unfortunately, it is a normal part of life. That doesn't make it any less easy to deal with, but we have to acknowledge it and allow ourselves to go through the motions. Don't fall into the trap of feeling guilty, or weak because you are expressing your emotions; or because things are taking a little bit longer to process than you anticipated. As they say, grief comes in waves. You'll experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; and sometimes, it'll hit you at the most unexpected times. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so please give yourself and others patience, grace, and compassion.
Create and be consistent in your daily routine
Experiencing loss in any way can be a lonely road, and have you feeling hopeless and in the dumps for days/weeks/months/years. Try to do your best to create a routine where you do something productive with your day, even if it's something like making your bed and getting yourself something to eat/drink. Plan your day with activities that you look forward to like going for a walk, exercise, yoga, painting, or engaging in an activity that allows you to get out of your head for a moment and get in some movement or creativity. Practice mindfulness even in the most mundane tasks, just try your best to bring yourself back to the present moment. Find a ritual that you can be consistent at, and do it every day. On the days where you aren't feeling your best, don't beat yourself up about it. Remember that you can always begin again, every day is a chance to get things right.
Take good care of yourself
When we're going through hard things, it's easy to start neglecting ourselves. Do a daily check-in within yourself to ask yourself questions like: Have I eaten/drank anything today? How am I feeling? What's on my mind? Did I get any fresh air? When is the last time I watched something funny or interesting? Who can I call to talk to or hang out with, even if it's virtual?
Envision and write down what you want your life to look like after the pandemic
Do some future journaling. Really think about what you want your life to look like after all of this is set and done, and write it down. Be as detailed as possible, leaving no stones unturned. Map out what you want your life to look/feel like and try to visualize and embody those things. This will help you to be intentional about what steps you need to take to get there, and it will give you something to work towards and look forward to. It's important that we fill our minds with good thoughts, and that we position ourselves to nourish ourselves from the inside out. There is no deadline for when this thing will be over so we have to be conscious of what we're feeding our minds, and makes sure that we are filling ourselves up with hope and that we can envision a future that we show up for fully, and be proud of.
I dedicate this article to the best grandmother that anyone could ever ask for, the most loving, stylish/well-dressed person I have ever known, the incomparable, Dorothy Mae Vass.
I also want to send love, light, and prayers to every person who has gone through treacherous waters in this season. I know how tough all of this is, but please find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, even if it feels that way.
In the words of Kendrick Lamar, "We gon' be alright!"