Coronavirus: Coping with the Spectrum of Disappointment, Loss, and Grief
The coronavirus pandemic has surrounded us with a myriad of losses — from disappointments to financial hardship and the pain of illness and death. People wonder when and if we will regain life as it was. On a daily basis, many of us wrestle with undercurrents of loss and grieving.
On a more minor level, we experience the disappointments of missed events, social isolation, boredom, and lack of access to normal routines and services. Even mundane inconveniences, like the inability to get a haircut or coloring, bring frustration (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/well/family/coronavirus-grief-loss.html).
And many are coping with more serious difficulties, such as job loss or furlough, illness, loss of benefits, inadequate medical access, lags in receiving stimulus checks, and in many urban areas, fear of food shortages.
In addition to dealing with their own struggles, parents also need to help their children handle the distress caused by closed schools, confinement, inadequate playtime, online learning, and cancelation of camps or sports tryouts, to name a few (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/parenting/coronavirus-kids-events-cancelled.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article).
And many families are confronting the greatest sorrow: illness and death. Often they don’t get to comfort their loved ones or say goodbye. Under normal circumstances, there are medical procedures, rituals, and support to help patients and their families. But coping becomes extremely complex and difficult when families are isolated during the last stages of life or can’t engage in traditional funeral practices.
During these times, it is especially important to have an understanding of the stages of grief and common reactions to loss and death. The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (https://www.webmd.com/balance/normal-grieving-and-stages-of-grief#1).
After reading about or discussing grief reactions, you might ask, “In what ways am I grieving?” You may wonder what helps in coping with disappointment, loss, and grief. Let’s consider three ways of helping yourself and others:
Accept and make peace with the chaotic nature of the times. We are juggling conflicting factors. On one hand, we need to accept increased uncertainty, rapid changes, and events we can’t control. On the other hand, we need to identify the aspects we can control, and then take action. We need to engage in problem-solving, stress reduction, and activities that bring some satisfaction. Structure and routine will reduce uncertainty and help you feel in greater control:
- Prioritize getting adequate sleep (https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus disease-covid-19/advice-for-sleeping-well-during-the-covid-19-outbreak).
- Make a plan for some part of the day. Schedule housekeeping tasks, such as vacuuming, laundry, and cooking.
- Designate specific places for quiet time versus task time.
- Conduct daily or weekly home or team meetings. Even taking five minutes to schedule tasks and relaxation time can prevent squabbles or help keep you on track.
Reach in to use your strengths and become more creative. Consider trying new positive distractions and activities. Here are a few suggestions:
- Start or continue to exercise most days, and get other family members or friends on
board (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/well/coronavirus-exercise-heart-health.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/well/move/kids-exercise-teenagers-children-virus.html).
- Try cooking new recipes (https://www.nytimes.com/article/easy-recipes-coronavirus.html).
- If your scale is trending upward, plan healthier meals.
- Work on puzzles alone or with others (https://store.nytimes.com/products/puzzle-mania-emergency-edition).
- Make time for playfulness. Replace some of the doom and gloom with humor and relaxation. There are serious problems to deal with, but they can’t be solved by worrying about them all day.
- Spend some time trying a new hobby or enjoying nature. For example, watch birds, plant seeds, or sing along with your favorite band.
- Schedule time to consider problem-solving and coping strategies to stay safe and sane (https://www.wsj.com/articles/navigating-your-life-during-coronavirus-11584985940).
- Once you have increased positive distractions and lowered your stress, think about reducing bad habits that may have crept into your life, such as alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, or staying up all night binge-watching.
Reach out to help others — and ask for help when you need it. Even a 5- to 10-minute phone call to a relative or friend who is isolated can help them and will give you a feeling of greater control and satisfaction. Reach out in the way that is easiest for the people you wish to comfort or help.
- For example, ask about their preferred method of communicating. Does the person want you to touch base on a regular basis? If so, when and how? For some, only the telephone is bearable, while for others, a video chat is more personal and effective. For still others, only email or text will do. If you are not comfortable making direct contact, send a note or an e-card.
If you are constantly ruminating or worrying, reach out to family, friends, or professionals to touch base or ask for help.
- Discuss ways to deal with serious problems and challenges.
- If it’s easier for you, use digital devices to make personal or professional connections.
It’s likely we will be dealing with coronavirus-related disappointments, loss, and grief for some time in the future. How you perceive and manage these difficulties will influence your stress level, productivity, and peace of mind.
Follow the three key steps above to help yourself and others. Set up structure and routines to bring stability and some certainty to your daily work and life. The result? You’ll lower your stress and achieve greater productivity. And at the end of the day, you’ll feel more satisfied(even if you haven’t read any of the 10 books on the shelf you said you’d read when you had the time)!