By Ekelem Airhihen
Recently, I had to attend the funeral of a relative. Watching the various actions of the children and listening to the praises heaped on the young woman called up emotions. And sure, men wept.
Medicinenet.com defines grief as the normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss. It further defines bereavement as the state of experiencing that loss. It further states that grief is usually referred to the loss of a loved one through death and it is quite common. However any major loss like the breakup of a relationship, job loss or loss of living situation can result in a grief reaction.
Added to the pandemic was the ENDSARS protest that left many businesses counting their losses and facing uncertainty and risks not before planned for. Indeed, Covid-19 has not only resulted in loss of lives and profits for businesses but also, people are grieving over the loss of their normal routine.
Mayoclinic states that the pandemic has had a major psychological impact, causing people to lose a sense of safety, predictability, control, freedom and security. The loss of routine is upsetting because people do not just feel attachments to others but also to their work and certain places and things. The experience of losing these attachments may not be as well defined as some losses, it says.
The most well-known model for understanding grief was developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, in her 1969 book titled “On Death and Dying”. Here she outlined five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are also said to be applicable to the stages of dying, the grief associated with one’s own death. Indeed she felt these phases can be associated with any significant personal loss. These stages do not all have to occur, can take place in different order and can reoccur many times as part of an individual’s specific grief process.
So, to be done with grief, medicinenet.com suggests that every person who has experienced a death or other loss must complete a four step grieving process such as – Accept the loss; Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief; Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost; Move on with life. Completing these four steps is necessary for the grieving process to be done with.
Grief does have its own positive sides though. It might cause one to feel grateful for brave and caring people in one’s community, lead to an increased appreciation of one’s relationships as well as lead to a desire to help others experiencing similar losses. That however does not take away the fact that grief can cause feeling of emptiness or numbness, anger and a loss of feeling of joy or sadness. Some physical symptoms may be associated with same as having trouble with eating or sleeping, excess fatigue, muscle weakness or shakiness, Mayoclinic states further. Indeed, grief helps one recognize that one has experienced a loss and will need further to adapt.
To cope with the loss of routine during the pandemic, Mayoclinic suggests the following:
Pay attention to your feelings: Whatever has been lost to the pandemic should be named. Having a journal to write it down might be helpful. The Centre for Journal Therapy gives guidelines on journaling – apply no strict rules to the process, limit the time journaling to fifteen minutes per day or less to decrease the likelihood of worsening grief, writing how one imagines his or her life will be a year from the loss and clearly identify feelings to allow for easier tracking of the individual’s grieving process. Allow yourself to feel sadness or cry is also part of the process.
Think about your strengths and coping skills: Think of what you did to recover during other tough transitions you have been through. Someone once said: “I did it before and I can do it again.”
Stay connected: Get all the support you need. Leveraging on technology as social media, phone calls, text messages, stay in touch with family and friends who are supportive and positive. Reach out too to those in similar situations.
Create an adapted routine: Keep a regular sleep schedule along with a healthy diet. Work or online learning should also include activities such as exercise, worship and hobbies to be able to cope.
Limit your news diet: Spending too much time on news about the pandemic can cause one to focus heavily on what has been lost leading to increased anxiety
Remember the journey: Do not let the way your job ended for instance, define your whole journey. Look at the big picture and remember some of your good memories.
Taking comfort in creative activities like cooking, gardening, making art or being creative in other ways might help feel better.
Finally Mayo Clinic advises that one considers seeking help from a mental health provider if one is finding it difficult coping with grief over changes caused by the pandemic.
Adjusting by focusing on the present and what one can control are likely to lessen the feelings of grief it suggests.
• Airhihen is Chartered Accountant and airport customer experience specialist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org