It’s a strange time we’re living in. For most of 2020, we’ve been dealing with Coronavirus and the adverse effects it’s been causing. Most people still feel a certain level of stress, overwhelm, uncertainty, or depression as a result of Coronavirus. Why? We’ve had time to accept what’s going on and make adjustments, but there are still these nagging negative emotions that continue to plague us. The answer is likely related to the on-going loss we continue to encounter.
1.) What is Loss?
The basic concept of loss is that something unpleasant happened, which was out of our control, and now we have to adapt to a new normal. We were all very aware of the initial losses and death associated with Coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic, but additional tragedies continue to occur that we may not think of as losses. Graduations didn’t happen, attending school in person stopped, birthday parties with friends are being cancelled, there won’t be large get togethers for fireworks displays on the 4th of July, concerts are being cancelled, vacations are gone, employment has been deeply affected, and weddings are being rescheduled or cancelled entirely. Every time we encounter something that disrupts our “normal,” that’s a loss, and it takes a toll.
2.) Don’t Compare
When it comes to loss, it’s very natural to say “Well, no one in my family has died from Coronavirus, so what am I complaining about?” We tend to want to create a hierarchy of loss and tell ourselves that the more “minor things” don’t deserve an emotional reaction. Experts in grief and loss universally agree that it’s OK to think of any departure from normal, big or small, as a loss and call it a loss. Even if we label them minor, losses affect us, and there is no sense in trying to deny that fact. A healthy approach to loss includes naming it as such, accepting that it exists, and acknowledging that it is having a negative impact on you.
3.) Stages of Grief are Misleading
Grief is the emotion most commonly associated with loss. We tend to think of grief as occurring in stages based on the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She developed a theory of grief that includes five stages based on her research with people facing their own deaths. This research is highly important, but it inadvertently created this idea that people move through stages of grief in a linear fashion and that there is a “right way” to grieve. Let all of those misconceptions go. There is no right way to grieve. Feel how you feel and don’t judge yourself for grieving in a right or wrong manner. Even if an emotion is confusing or contradictory to what you thought you’d feel, let it be. Experts on grief encourage people to experience whatever emotion comes up and adopt an accepting attitude toward it. Fighting the emotion or judging yourself harshly for not grieving correctly is only going to pile on the negative emotion you’re already experiencing.
If you are struggling with loss related to Coronavirus and want to work through it in counseling, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.