Recognizing and Processing Grief
The entire world is going through a radical shift unlike anything anyone has ever experienced. If you’re feeling especially out of sorts these days, you’re certainly not alone. Life as we knew it just ended.
Our new “normal” isn’t normal at all, and feeling a flood of overwhelming emotions is real. Whether we realize it or not, many of us are mourning the loss of our previous life and routine, suddenly experiencing an unfamiliar sense of grief as we navigate through these challenging times.
Typically, grief is something we connect with death, but there are several kinds of loss that can generate feelings of grief. If you’ve ever gone through a breakup or divorce, you’re well aware that the physical death of a loved one isn’t the only thing that can trigger a wave of uncomfortable emotions.
The current state of the world has left us plenty to grieve, including things like:
- The loss of life as we once knew it.
- The loss of lives.
- Job loss or the loss of a business.
- Anxiety over finances, such as paying rent and bills and purchasing basic needs.
- Restructure/restriction of daily routine and habits.
- Social distancing and feeling isolated from those we love.
- Worrying about the wellbeing of loved ones.
- Forced cancellation of plans and special events such as weddings, funerals, birthdays, and graduations.
- Sorrow for the state of the world.
- Uncertainty about the future and how things will turn out.
If you’re feeling a bit emotionally overwhelmed and can’t quite seem to shake it, you could very well be experiencing grief and not even know it.
Learning to Recognize Feelings of Grief
Grief is a very common response to loss, and in some form we’re all experiencing loss in our own unique way.
Grief can present itself in a number of different forms, especially during these uncertain times. Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Increased irritability
- Feeling detached
- Finding little interest in life
- Increased fatigue and little energy
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Digestive problems
- Dealing with your feelings by drinking, eating, or smoking more than usual; engaging in other unhealthy coping mechanisms like compulsively shopping online or spending mindless hours on social media
While they can be uncomfortable, these feelings are normal. If you feel alone in the wave of emotional ups and downs you’re experiencing, it can help to keep in mind that we’re all in this together.
Humans are a remarkably adaptive species. As different as this “new normal” might be, we’re strong-spirited by nature and typically find ways to adjust to change, no matter how hard it might seem.
Processing Feelings of Grief
Learning to process grief and cope with the wave of emotions it entails is essential for overcoming feelings of loss.
Recognize and accept your feelings. Avoiding something you don’t want to feel won’t make it go away. If you don’t recognize and allow yourself to accept these uncomfortable feelings, they’ll simply continue to resurface until you finally do.
Whether you’re feeling sad, angry, defeated, confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, alone, or all of the above, do your best to understand that anything you might be experiencing is totally valid. Let these feelings come up. Honor your emotions. You’re human and all the feelings associated with grief are a normal reaction to the changes we’re collectively experiencing.
When you recognize and accept your feelings, coping with them can become more manageable and spare you from more distress in the future. Remember, the only way out is through. The sooner you recognize and accept your feelings, the sooner you can begin to change them.
Coping With Grief
Learning to cope with grief is essential to begin to feel better about life. Check out the following tips for coping with any grief you might be feeling:
1. Make Self-Care a Priority
When hit with feelings of grief, taking care of even the most mundane tasks can feel impossible. Making self-care a priority when grieving sometimes means making a point to take care of yourself at the most basic level. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat as healthy as possible. Take time to rest, and by all means, be gentle with yourself.
2. Understand Your Feelings are Justified
Even if you haven’t lost someone close to you, your feelings of grief are valid. We’re all experiencing loss to some degree and comparing yourself to others you think might “have it worse” can make it seem like your feelings aren’t justified. Remember, it’s not only the loss of a loved one that can lead to grief. Worldwide, we’re experiencing the loss of life as we once knew it and the future seems extremely uncertain. Even the loss of our daily routines can have unprecedented effects on our emotional state. Coping with grief can become much easier when you understand the way you feel is warranted.
3. Keep Connected to Those You Love
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about coping with grief during this time is the isolation many of us are experiencing. Grief can feel extremely isolating, even under normal circumstances. Mandatory social distancing can make it even worse. As hard as it might seem, reaching out to friends and family can offer a much-needed sense of connection. No one deserves to go through grief alone. Even if you can’t get together in person, a FaceTime chat or connecting on Zoom or Messenger can do wonders to soothe the soul. A regular phone call even works. Keep connected by regularly checking in with those you love, and grief can become much easier to cope with.
Learning to recognize and navigate our way through grief is important, especially during these rapidly changing times. It’s been said that the only cure for grief is to grieve. Accept grief as the response to loss that it is, and let yourself feel all those uncomfortable feelings. Allowing yourself to grieve what’s been lost offers a way to move forward with the hope the world still holds, despite any uncertainty the future might bring.