Covid-19 has taken our community and country on a wild ride. Over the last
couple of months we have all experienced so many different thoughts and emotions. The
ups and downs can become overwhelming. During this virus as in any difficult
situation, there is a beginning, middle, and end.
In the beginning of this pandemic, you may have been unaware of its affects on
you. By not knowing the future, you could in no way conceive that life would
change so much in just a few short weeks. Soon the changes began happening.
Life quickly began shifting towards a focus on preparing for the weeks ahead.
Suddenly changes with work, school, and lots of shopping began. We were able
to keep ourselves really busy preparing for this virus. Through this preparation,
we were able to actively do something in mist of the growing virus chaos that
surrounded us. By actively preparing, we were able to reduce the growing
feelings of anxiety. Then came the need to find purpose. People began focusing
on the good that comes from being at home.
Then the changes began to stop and this new isolated life at home including
working and home schooling became the new norm. This is when the anxiety
really began to grow. We are now literally stuck in the middle phase of this
growing pandemic. News reports are flooding our TVs and social media news
feeds. Everyone is beginning to feel cooped up. As anxieties rise and the
unknowns grow, we sit and wait. Without a known end date in sight, emotions are on the rise. It is much easier to make it through difficulties when they are short lived. When
there is an end date, it’s easier to psych yourself up to get through it. This virus is
beginning to feel more like a marathon than a sprint. How can we make it through
this time with the least impact on our mental well-being? One important way is to
recognize and process the grief you are experiencing.
Grief is a word, we hear used a lot to describe feelings of loss. It is fair to say, we
have all collectively been going through the loss of our normal life. Though grief
doesn’t necessarily follow a set timeline or order, there is a basic rhythm to the
grief process. It is important to recognize that when grieving, you may experience
more then one phase at a time and you may re-experience phases over time.
The following is a list of the phases of the grief you may be experiencing along
with descriptions and questions to encourage processing. This processing can
be done through thinking, writing, or talking.
As the virus began to spread around our country, many were in disbelief that it
would actually spread and cause any effects on our society. It’s as if it seemed
distant from us, therefore it isn’t that bad and won’t effect us. Maybe you recall feeling this way and wondered why others seemed concerned. Maybe you found yourself continuing to come back to this place of denial, wondering if the correct measures had been taken or if everything had been blown out of proportion.
Questions to consider: Were you confused in the beginning about all the news
coverage, thinking it was blowing the virus out of proportion? As you think back,
do you recall denying the severity of the virus and the life changes that were
happening around you? In what ways do you feel that you denied the effects of
this situation on you and your life? Does this feel more like a movie than real life?
People generally don’t like change, especially when they have little control over
it. There have been a lot of changes that have happened fairly quickly. These
changes along with feeling stuck in isolation can bring out feelings of anger and
may trigger past trauma or grief. When our brain feels flooded and emotions are
on the rise, our brains automatic response is to simply survive. When this
happens you may notice within yourself, feelings of Fight and Flight beginning to
surface. Fight may be seen in disagreements rising, tempers flaring, and quickly
feeling angry. Flight may be seen in feeling stir crazy, wanting to leave the
house, and feeling trapped.
Questions to consider: Do you wonder why this virus had to disrupt your life?
Have you felt anger towards people in charge of making decisions? Is being at
home all together without a break overwhelming? Are you and your spouse
getting annoyed and frustrated with each other? Are your kids misbehaving and
not listening? Do they seem restless and bored? Do you feel over extended and
exhausted, so busy that you can’t keep up with everything? Does it feel like you
are working 2 full time jobs? Are your frustration levels rising as each week
progresses? Do you long to travel and lead your normal life, seeing friends and
family again? Do you just want to leave your house because you feel so stuck?
We were wired to find purpose and meaning in life especially during difficult, out
of our control circumstances. There is a great need to feel in control, in out of
control situations. During times of difficulty, you may notice yourself making
bargaining type statements. If only statements may begin circling in your mind, or
fearful what if thoughts can creep in and take over your mind as well. For
example, I’ll only be ok if I get all the food and supplies I need. If we had
responded sooner, things would not have lead to where they are now.
Questions to consider: How would you describe the impact of this virus and this
time of isolation on you and your family? What types of meaning and purpose
have you found for yourself and your family during this time? In what ways have
you felt out of control? In what ways have you needed to feel more in control?
What statements of what if, have you thought about? Do you find yourself askingGod, why did this happen? Are you wondering what can be done to stop this
During this virus and time of social isolation, we have all experienced a loss of
our “normal” lives. Some have experienced a loss of health and work. While
others have experienced a loss of memorable school experiences such as
graduation and prom. With these losses, feelings of depression may begin to
surface. This depression is not necessarily a sign of clinical depression. As your
brain is in survival mode, you may begin feeling stuck and not sure what to do.
These feelings can lead to more of a Freeze response. You may notice yourself
having lower energy levels, wanting to sleep more, having a change in appetite,
wanting to isolate from others, and feeling foggy headed.
Questions to consider: What losses have you experienced during this time? How
much longer do you think this will last? What are your concerns? Do you feel
stuck? What is your energy level? How much sleep have you been getting each
night? How has your appetite been? Have you withdrawn from others? Have you
had trouble remembering things?
Acceptance has a nice ring to it, but may still feel far away. Some of you may
have found your place here already. For others, you may not be here just yet and
that is okay, too. How can one accept that a virus, in the year 2020 with all our
scientific advancements, has infected our country and shut it down? This reality
may be harder for some than others to accept. Acceptance does not mean, you
are okay with this virus. It just means you have accepted the fact that it is
happening and that this is our present reality.
Questions to consider: Have you accepted that the school year is over? Does
staying at home and social isolation feel like the new normal for the
unforeseeable future? What does this change of life mean for you now? What
good memories do you have from this year and from this time? If you are not in a
place of acceptance yet, what is holding you back from being in this place?
How does this end?
How this will end, remains still unclear. We do know that how we handle
ourselves during this time, will greatly impact how it ends for each of us. Notice
how you are thinking, what you are feeling, and avoid holding it all in.
Understanding and processing the different stages of grief will help with this. Be
sure to talk with someone you trust or even a therapist, to help make it through
this time. We truly are all in this together. Together helping ourselves and others,
we will make it through.
Erin was born and raised in East Texas and after being gone for 13 years, she moved
back in 2011. She is married and has two amazing kids that are in the middle years
of childhood. Erin has two degrees in Social Work, a Bachelors from The University
of North Texas and a Masters from Temple University. She is a LCSW, a Licensed
Clinical Social Worker. Prior to having children, Erin worked in a variety of counseling settings including foster care and adoption, elementary education, and a children’s hospital. After becoming a mom, Erin stayed at home with her kids until they started school. Erin has always been passionate to help children and families, but after becoming a mom she knew it was her calling. After working for several years in a private counseling practice, she now co-owns a counseling practice in
Tyler, The Bridge Therapeutic Services. Her office bridges Christian counseling and
whole health services together. As a therapist, she works with children, adolescents,
adults, and families. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma,
PTSD, medical diagnoses related to stress, grief, ADD/ADHD, and adjustment to life
circumstances. She is trained in EMDR, Brain Gym, and she utilizes techniques in Art
and Play Therapy as well. Erin believes in a whole health therapeutic approach,
focusing on the mind, body, and soul. She loves spending time with her husband and
two kids, traveling, doing yoga, having a massage, sipping a warm cup of tea, reading
a good book, and playing with her cute little dog.