A collective experience of grief- how to manage difficult feelings?

A lot of different emotions swirl in each of us. In our everyday life there are better and worse moments, moments of hope and moments of helplessness. There is a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, fear. We find feelings of sadness, loss and even grief (yes! this is how we can call this discomfort). Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but we can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We are experiencing it collectively.

What can I do to manage that?

Understanding the stages of grief is a start. It’s really important to remember that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s always a very personal experience. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

Can I make it less intense?

When we’re feeling grief there’s a physical pain. And the racing mind. Our mind begins to show us images. We see the worst scenarios. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. Check if the negative scenarios are dominating the positive ones.

To calm yourself, come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay.

You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. Do you have any control over your leaders and the decisions they make? Try not to lose energy on the things you can’t change. Focus on that.

Finally,  stock up on compassion. Everyone has different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment. We’re going through this collectively and we’re a community. Other people might need you support.

So really, validate you’re experiencing. The truth is a feeling that moves through us. We feel it and it goes and then we go to the next feeling. It’s absurd to think we should not feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going. Keep growing!