Grief and Loss during COVID19

Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

            Throughout the globe we as a collective human race are dealing with loss. And if we are all adjusting to loss, then we are all collectively in a grieving process. Americans as a breed are such do-ers that we often struggle with grief and loss because there is so little “to do” about the emptiness and pain it can create.  The restrictions and pain that are being felt worldwide are a call to those who can- to uplift in any way- to do soThat’s our collective call to actiondo what you can to upliftFor some, this will be a time to find a deeper inner strength,  pool of calm and/or an inspiration inside that can be a springboard to assist others and light the way.  For others, this may be a time of such deep fear and grief it might take their breath away and immobilize them.  Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle and our reactions will reveal to us how we handle uncertainty, restriction, loss, sorrow, fear, loneliness or disappointment.

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

            For those who are primarily in adjustment to living with restrictions, cancellations and uncertainty, this is a moment of opportunity to take whatever Mindfulness or Awareness lessons you’ve gained to a new level.  Use all your tools to stay in the present moment, to navigate the waves of fear, take conscious action when needed and also see what this GLOBAL event can  teach us. Since the stay at home order was given, during every sunset my neighborhood is now filled with people on their front lawns, children playing on streets and sidewalks, dogs taking their families for a walk, people cruising on bikes and in golf carts, and lots of joggers/walkers. We are aware of each other in a palpable way and offering what help we can. Younger people are reaching out to older people, we are greeting each other with smiles and waves—it’s touching. Personally, I’ve cleaned out stuff I’ve been meaning to get to for years, called family members and friends who’ve I’ve been “meaning to call,” and slowed down enough to pay better attention to the needs of my family, my body, my garden and my Spirit. When tension arises, I lean on meditation, yoga, inspiration and wise friends to keep me from being pulled into the strong undertow of fear. Here are five simple ways to consider navigating this time and to find acceptance: peace, engagement, centeredness, and even joy during this time of quarantine:

  • Slow down; enjoy more. Notice how good it feels to strive less and have life move more slowly– more time for loved ones and Life’s’ simple pleasures. 
  • Find gratitude and abundance- here, now.Count your blessings, count your shoes, sort belongings, open your pantry, and really notice how much you have.
  • Do one thing at a time.Create a practice of being undistracted and present with children, “family”, food, exercise, cooking, and work tasks. Apply this same practice to your use of TV, social media, alcohol/substances, snacking, and checking the market, to help maintain awareness and balance.
  • Take action where you can, innovate when you need to and finally let go when all options have been explored. Action can reduce anxiety however it can also keep us spinning. Through discernment, find clarity to see what’s needed. 
  • Connect with your loved ones, your neighbors, your community and your inner life. Many people are missing social contact and avenues of support. Find ways to increase your sense of connection and ability to serve others as able.

“Losing me will hurt; it will be the kind of pain that won’t feel real at first, 
and when it does, it will take her breath away.”
― Gayle Forman, If I Stay

            For those of you grieving the death of a loved one (or collapse of livelihood), your sense of loss and grief will be more intense and it’s critical that you find places of support. At first sudden loss may create a numbness or shock. This is actually protective because once the numb/shock wears off we are struck by waves of pain. Based on the kind of loss and how repetitive it is, the grieving could take longer to get through, but eventually healing will occur. If the death/loss “shouldn’t have been,” such as the loss of a child, sibling, spouse, partner and/or with someone who had been healthy prior to the virus, it is critical that you find someone to talk to who truly understands what you are
 living through. If you’re a medical provider or first responder and are living through repetitive exposure to loss, support is also critical so the traumatic nature of these times do not take root in you (such as with PTSD).   So much can be written about the myriad of ways we are impacted by deep grief and loss. However at first it’s key to understand what’s normal (and therefor healable) about the grief/loss response. 

 The following is a list of most common responses:

shock, numbness, disengagement, denial, anger, disbelief, hurt, pain, sorrow, “what if’s,” intrusive memories, poor focus and retention, crying jags, tiredness, going into hyper drive, “why bother,” talking to loved ones who’ve died, wanting to touch their things, going through photos, taking all the photos down, eating too much, not eating enough, unable to sleep and unable to get out of bed, and sometimes feeling alone with your grief.

After working for over 5 years as a Bereavement Counselor at a local hospice, I can tell you every one of my clients emerged from their grief; some slower than others, but healing eventually occurred. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, find someone who can support you exactly where you are– and most of all practice self-compassion. Grief and loss force us towards the deepest challenge there is to be human and so we need knowing, wise and gentle companions on the road to recovery.  

My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever.
 It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined; you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is
 love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.” 
― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere 

Please stayed tuned to Sacred Treehouse facebook and email to receive offerings on the process of grief, loss, adjustment and healing. Take care of yourself and those in your world.

Sending Love and Compassion,

Anni and the Sacred Treehouse Faculty

Anni Johnston, LMHC-S, BC-D/MT, CEDS, CYT works at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Movement Therapist.  In addition to her therapy work, Anni offers weekly Beginner and Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse.  She also offers book studies and special workshops throughout the year.