To the editor:
The COVID-19 threat, the closing of many activities, the social distancing/staying home requirements are all big changes we are going through. These changes involve losses — loss of familiar routine, loss of freedom in movement, loss of social contact with everyday friends. Losses trigger emotions that can be described as grief.
Grieving is often described as going through “five stages.” They are denial (“We can’t believe it is real.”); anger (“We are not getting to do the things we want and we’re having to do things we don’t like.”); bargaining (“Maybe there is something we can do to reduce the losses.”); sadness (“We don’t know how or when this is going to work out.”); and acceptance (“If this is how it is going to be, what can I do now?”) In reality, these feelings don’t happen one right after the other. Instead, they bubble up and circle around in unpredictable ways and times.
There is also another aspect of grief which is called “anticipatory grief.” Anticipatory grief happens when our minds go to the future and imagine the worst. It is the feeling of uncertainty about the future. This aspect of grief is often called anxiety or excessive worry. We sense something bad is going to happen but we can’t really see it. Our sense of safety and predictability is broken. We are all, individually and collectively, experiencing this anxious worry feeling. It’s helpful to be aware that such stress often makes us irritable and impatient with one another.
Since these various aspects of grief naturally grow out of the losses we are experiencing, it is unrealistic to think we can eliminate these feelings. It helps to name the discomfort we are feeling as grief. There are, however, things we can do as we move through this experience.
The Center for Counseling and Consultation suggests that we focus on things we can control. Or, to put it another way, we can choose what we focus on each day. Focusing can be as simple as naming five things around us that we can see, or tackling things we can do with our hands such as house cleaning or yard clearing. (For many good suggestions, see article entitled, “Maintain mental health during outbreak,” in the Friday, April 3, Great Bend Tribune.) The K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District agents provide very helpful suggestions in their weekly columns in the Sunday edition of the Tribune. Judi Tabler’s column in the Sunday, April 5, issue of the paper is an excellent example of how our spiritual faith can help us navigate through this challenging journey with both honesty and thankfulness. Our community of faith can remind us that God still has us in his strong, loving hands.
Board Certified Chaplain
Grief Group Facilitator-retired