You may be thinking; I’m not grieving. I haven’t lost anyone. We tend to associate grief with the loss of a person but the loss of life. But grief can come about with any significant loss in our life, whether it’s a loss of income, loss of a job, loss of freedom, loss of a lifestyle, or loss of relationships.
The coronavirus has put almost everyone in the world in the same boat, at least for a while. As of this moment, we have all experienced some sort of loss, a lot of us are locked down. As I was creating this, we got the order from the Governor of Ohio. At midnight tomorrow, we are in lockdown. Only essential services and trips are allowed. We have a loss of freedom. Some of us literally can’t leave our homes. We can’t go to the movies. We can’t go shopping and be out with groups of people. We can’t go out to eat. I live this lifestyle most days anyway. But, there was something about hearing that announcement, when I knew it was going to be imposed on me for the unknown future, which caused anxiety, fear, and even grief. I’ve never been incarcerated. But, I imagine it feels a little like this.
These things are losses. That feeling you’ve got right now is probably some level of grief.
In my book, Grief 2 Growth, I wrote:
Grief is deep, prolonged mental anguish, intense sorrow, emotional suffering, resulting from a loss, especially the death of a loved one.Grief manifests in many ways. It manifests in shock, disbelief, anger, rage, fear, sadness, uncontrollable crying, a feeling of emptiness, the belief that life will never be the same again, the belief that you will never be happy again, and a lack of concentration. Life feels like it’s falling apart. It may even feel like your life has come to a halt. You’ll say things like my world has ended.
You may not be feeling all those things exactly right now, and you may not feel all those things when you go through any type of grief. But I think we’re all feeling this kind of a shock. We find ourselves in a situation that we never thought we’d find ourselves living in America. We can have anger and sadness about it. Many of us have lost income. A lot of us have lost income. Some of us have lost jobs. Some people have been laid off even in this two week or so period. So we’re experiencing a sense of grief with all of these changes. Grief itself is not an emotion, but it’s a container. It’s something that triggers or carries all these other emotions with it.
If you’re feeling this way, it’s OK. You’re normal. I think we’re all feeling it. But there are a couple of good things. First of all, humans are remarkably, remarkably adaptive beings. We adjust to situations very quickly. You may not believe this right now, but we adjust to our new normals- usually very quickly. We can do it very well as a collective and as individuals. I have spoken with a lot of people who have had children cross. As you know, my daughter Shana passed away. When it first happens, you swear you could never get used to this. It could never be your normal. But, you do adjust to the new normal. I’m not saying that we necessarily like it. We don’t. But, we learn to live with it.
Just in the last ten days, I’ve made an adjustment to my expectations are the grocery store. The shelves aren’t full like they used to be. The first time that happened, it was kind of a shock to me. Now, it’s not as big of a deal, already. I went out to Trader Joe’s a week or so ago, and I was thrilled to find choices of bread. I thought I’d have just to take whatever they had. I was excited to see eggs, any eggs. Bonus, they were the ones I would have bought anyway. I felt gratitude for the opportunity to purchase what I usually take for granted. I had already adjusted that quickly to the fact that we don’t have all the choices at this particular moment, as we’ve had in the past. I think we’ll get those choices back relatively soon, as soon as panic buying stops. I intend to remain grateful. We’ll see if that happens.
So, be hopeful that as we go through this. I have to admit a little bit of a panic the other day when they said we might be locked down for weeks or maybe even months. An,d I live a very socially isolated life to begin with. It’s not a big deal for me not to leave the house for four or five days at a time, but the difference is the choice. Usually, I can still go out if I want to, I can still interact with people face to face. I can even get close to someone if I want to. When that choice is taken away it is a whole different thing that makes this feel more like confinement. If it’s triggering that reaction for me, I’m sure it’s much worse for those who are used to going out and interacting socially face-to-face every day.
What you can do:
Let me give you some tips for navigating through these uncharted waters. There are two keys- hope and purpose. Human beings need both. I always encourage my clients to maintain hope. We look for any reason to hang onto hope. If we have hope, that gives us the strength to get through the next moment. Purpose is also necessary. We need to feel we are serving a purpose. We need to feel like what we are enduring has a purpose. If we have a purpose, if we can find purpose in our struggle, we can literally survive anything.
I want to assure you there’s a reason for the things we’re going through. There is a reason for the social isolation. When you stay at home, you might feel like you’re doing nothing. You might feel frustrated. Look at it this way. When you take yourself out of that chain of transmission of this virus that travels from person to person to person, you have cut the infection off. If you’re not there at that gathering where there is a carrier, not only do you not become sick, you don’t carry it back to your family, your grandmother, your neighbors. You are doing your job in this global pandemic. You’re not transmitting the virus around. The thing about this virus is it’s not coming to get you. It doesn’t have arms; it doesn’t have legs. It will not be coming through your front door unless you or someone carries it in. It requires people to move from place to place. We can stop it. We will stop it.
The other thing I want to talk about to do while we’re in this isolation period is to try to get back to as normal as possible. Yes, you’re doing your duty to your community and the world by sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. But, let’s aim a little higher. You can’t leave your house right now. So what can you do?
If you have a job and you can still work from home, continue to work. That’s your job. You’re getting paid for that. Give your employer what they are paying for. I suspect at the end of this many more of us will be working from home as employers realize we don’t all need to be in the office. That, I think, is a good thing. Less traffic, less pollution. If you are not able to work from home and you have to stay at home, try to maintain a sense of some normalcy.
I can tell you as someone who’s worked from home for over 20 years now; these are things that I practice. I still get up early. I do not sleep in. You may not have to get up at 4:30 or 5:00, or whatever time you get up for a day or work. But, try to be up at a reasonable hour. Try to maintain going to bed at a reasonable time, knowing you want to get up at a reasonable time. Get dressed. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie. But, take a shower, put on some clothes, and get yourself dressed. I put on workout clothes and take a 7-mile hike before I shower and dress. But, after I shower, I put on real clothes, every day.
As I said, that in itself is a purpose if you’re on the couch watching Netflix, and you’re not out, then you’re doing something with a purpose. But, there are so many opportunities now. If you bought a guitar, like I did, and you haven’t picked it up in a couple of years, get on YouTube and take some guitar lessons. There’s a website called Udemy.com. Go there, find some courses, maybe even get a certification. There’s a site called learn.fiverr.com. Last week, I took a course in doing voiceover work. I’d already bought the course. But, I took the extra time I have to finishthe course. Do something productive in terms of improving your skill sets. Take a language, if that’s something that appeals to you. Read some of those books you’ve been meaning to read.
Continue to exercise if you do. If you’re a gym person, find something you can do at home. After you’ve worked out and accomplished your task for the day, reward yourself with some downtime. Most of us work way too hard. While this isn’t’ a staycation; take some time for yourself. Binge some Netflix.
This is also a perfect time to relax and reflect and to go within. Since we can’t go out; I mean literally, we can’t go out; this is time to go within. So I have doubled my meditation time. I’m sometimes doing two or three meditation sessions a day. I’m taking this as a little bit of a meditation retreat.
A lot of times when we’re on vacation; let’s face it, we drink alcohol all day long, because we’re on vacation. Alcohol is a depressant. If you are prone to depression and anxiety, beware that being shut in like this with no choice is very likely to trigger that anxiety and depression. Maintain your mental health. Limit your alcohol use. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep pattern. You want to keep your immune system strong. A vital part of that is getting proper sleep. Even though you might be tempted because you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, don’t drink alcohol all day long. Keep it reasonable. If you usually come home in the evening and you have a drink or two, OK. Have a drink or two in the evening. But let’s no take this time to start binge drinking. Binge drinking is also harmful to your immune system.
Also, limit your news. It’s essential to stay informed. Before this, I watched the news all day long. Well, not all day. But, I turned the news on a lot during the day. I watched it in the morning. I watched it when I took my lunch break, and I watched it after I had dinner. I’m limiting the amount of news I’m taking him right now because frankly, there’s so much bad news out there, that I don’t want to bring my energy level down with that. I know people who never watch the news. I’m not one of those people. I don’t intend to become one. But, with the24x7 news cycle, you see the same thing over and over again anyway.
So I’m staying informed. And I’m focusing on the good news. It’s essential to stay informed because there is so much misinformation as well as new information coming in. Do the things they’re telling you to do. Wash your hands thoroughly, practice social distancing. When you go out and come in, be cognizant of what you’re bringing back in. But know this. The virus is pretty weak. There are a lot of ways you cannot get it.
I read an article this morning about food safety because I was concerned about the restaurants delivering food to me. What if the workers are sick? Educate yourself on the facts here. I was wrong, and I learned. I’m not going to go into details here. I’m just going to say it’s safe to order food for takeout or delivery.
The other thing is the virus lives a very short time on most surfaces. From what I’ve been able to see about three days at longest on surfaces. Viruses die by half-life. It starts with a “load,” and the virus gets to the point where finally there is none left. That is the point that you hear when you hear about how long coronavirus can live on a surface. It’s the time when the last one is gone. We don’t know the viral load required to make you sick. So, better safe than sorry. But, after several hours, there is already less virus than there was to begin with. The same with the idea of the virus hanging in the air. Most droplets quickly fall to the ground. The numbers we hear are based on ideal conditions for the virus to survive. Be cautious. But don’t be paranoid.
It’s great to keep your house clean, but you don’t have to be obsessive about it, especially if you’re isolating. If you leave the house, when you come back, wash your hands before you touch your face or anything else. I go straight into the bathroom and I wash my hands. Come back to the groceries that you picked up. Other people have touched them. Those surfaces of the outside may be contaminated. But again, the virus is going to live on those for a few days- maximum. So after three days, those packages are safe. You might want to wipe them down as you’re putting them away just to be safe in case you’re going to use them soon.
In my particular case, we haven’t had people in the house for a week other than my daughter Kayla. We had several people over last weekend. If they deposited viruses on anything, those viruses were gone in a few days. When you’re in your house, you can feel safe. After you’ve brought anything into the house, disinfect it, wash your hands and go about your day. I’m not a medical doctor. I’m not giving medical advice here. I just don’t want us all to go OCD over this virus and think it’s got super strength. This virus is actually pretty weak like most Coronaviruses are. It can’t stand a lot of sunlight. It can’t live outside of a human host very long. While we want to be very, very cautious about it, we also don’t want to think this thing is like around the corner, ready to jump on us.
There is a lesson:
I believe there is a lesson in this for us. I’ll save that for another time. But, as we navigate this, instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?”, try asking “What is this here to teach me?”
That’s it. I know you’re feeling grief right now, and that’s OK. Sit with it, observe it. Be aware all of those emotions you’re feeling are normal. Observe them and let them pass. I deal with grief on a daily basis with my clients and having gone through the passing of Shayna. So, I know a little bit about this and what what you guys are going through. You may find yourself surprised at some of the emotions you’re having. They’re perfectly natural. There are things that you can do to give yourself some control and a sense of purpose. There’s a lot of hope out there. So I encourage you to look for the hope and read the useful articles. I’ve seen some excellent pieces that give encouragement, which will give you the hope you need to get through this. I wrote an article recently about Seven Good News Stories about the Coronavirus.
Covid-19 is probably going to be with us for a while. It’s going to be a bumpy road for the next few weeks or months. But we’ve had pandemics before. We’ve gotten a handle on them before. Life will return to normal at some point. Frankly, I hope we don’t go back to the way we were. I hope we learn some lessons from this. I think there are a lot of lessons for us to learn. I’ll go into those in another time.
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