Wondering how to deal with loss and grief during the pandemic? Learn how to deal with the loss of a loved one with our expert psychologist’s tips on how to deal with grief and loss.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost everyone in the world is dealing with some form of loss – from the loss of a loved one to job loss, business loss, and even loss of peace of mind.
While many of us are learning how to deal with the loss of a loved one, others are learning how to deal with job loss anxiety. But every human, with some support, is capable of helping themselves and others around them.
So, if you’re wondering how to deal with the loss of someone you love or any kind of loss that makes you feel depressed or anxious, remember that loss and grief can be processed and healing is possible.
Psychologist Pratiksha Sahasrabudhe believes that in the wake of the life-changing events of the pandemic we need to pay more attention to our mental health.
A Clinical Psychologist, who pursued her Masters and M.Phil in Clinical Psychology, she has completed certificate courses in Trauma-Focused Therapy and Emotional-Focused Technique.
In this article, we feature her answers to questions on grief and loss from SHEROES users.
The 5 Stages Of Grief
Are you wondering how soon is too soon to get over grief? How long does grief last when it’s related to losing someone close to you? If you get over it soon does it mean that person was never dear to you? And how can you deal with loss and carry out your normal daily activities?
Grief is a person’s normal, healthy response to loss. It is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks.
As the psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, wrote in her book, On Death and Dying, grief can be divided into five stages. The five stages of grief are:
Not everyone will experience all five stages, and you may not go through them in this order. Everyone grieves differently, so don’t be pressured into thinking you “should” be feeling or behaving a particular way.
There is no set timetable for grieving. Bereavement is always painful, but people may process and cope with it in different ways. Everyone processes loss differently, at different time frames, and in different ways.
For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter.
Just because you’re not visibly upset now doesn’t mean that you don’t care or are less impacted. So, don’t pressure yourself to move on or make it seem like you’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow the healing process.
People have varied ways of expressing and processing emotion in general, and mourning the loss of a loved one is no different. Don’t pressure yourself or your loved one to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long or have not grieved enough.
In understanding grief, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger, and frustration.
These are normal reactions to stress, and while there can be unwarranted stressors in our daily lives, we can work towards feeling positive and peaceful.
How To Deal With Grief And Loss
Dealing with loss is always emotionally challenging. It can take a long time to get to a place of acceptance or rebuild enough of a “new normal” to move forward and rebuild a workable version of one’s life.
Practising self-care is absolutely essential, especially when you’re healing from loss and grief. Taking care of yourself while caring for others will help you look after yourself and your family better.
Here are a few self-care tips that can help you deal with loss and grief:
When working with feelings associated with loss, practising self-compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. While self-compassion is not a cultural norm, it should be.
Self-compassion has tremendous healing power and even makes us nicer to be around for others. Treat yourself as you would treat a beloved friend, in word, thought and deed.
Self-compassion can be defined as, “The act of practising loving-kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.”
Be gentle with yourself
Speaking to yourself in a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your self-talk.
You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking. Give yourself space to feel the pain of grief, and also give yourself permission to take a break when you need it.
Self-care practice: Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your cheek and say to yourself “I care about you. I care about you.” This is a radical act of self-care and kindness!”
In the hustle of our everyday routines, we may forget to appreciate the good things that we have in our life.
Take some time every day to identify and reflect on the positive experiences of the day, such as meeting your friends or having a good meal.
When we focus on the positive, it makes us more likely to be able to experience the positive in future.
Engage in pleasurable activities
Our days need to have a balance of tasks we need to do, and tasks we want to do just for their own sake.
Make time for some pleasurable tasks every day, like a 15-minute meditation, reading before you sleep, or catching up with your friends.
They don’t necessarily add to your daily to-do lists, but engaging in these tasks will definitely help in uplifting your mood.
Try relaxation activities
Constant stress can create a negative impact on our minds and bodies. You can learn how to deal with grief spiritually with a mindfulness meditation practice or a relaxation practice. You can try guided visualizations or breathing exercises.
A quick breathing exercise is equal breathing, in which you inhale, hold, exhale, and hold again for 4 seconds each. Try four rounds of equal breathing to get a quick relaxation practice in your day.
Focus on what you can control
A persistent focus on all the things that can go wrong and that are not in our control can push us into a never-ending cycle of worry and anxiety. Instead, identify the things that are in your control and focus on them.
Some things that are in your control are your daily routine, how you interpret problems and respond to them, and how you prioritize. Focusing on what can be controlled can help us manage our worries better.
For example, if you lost your husband to COVID-19 and need to get a job and support your family, it may help you feel more in control by finding an online job for widows.
Ensure a healthy lifestyle
Lack of sleep and missing meals can make a distressing situation feel worse. Make sure that you are getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep and are eating timely and nutritious meals every day.
This includes eating full, balanced meals, getting a good night’s sleep and exercising regularly. Also, incorporate 20 minutes of physical activity or exercise into your daily routine.
Write a journal
Journaling is a self-care practice that allows you to become transparent with yourself and reveal your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself.
Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, observe the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical of yourself.
After a loss, you are not 100 per cent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small modifications to your daily tasks and schedule.
For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave, you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well.
You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period of time.
Ask for help
Grief is not a DIY (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare and other tasks.
While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for assistance can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration.
It’s okay to reach out and lean on your social circle. Ask for any help you need. This could be in terms of practical help in applying for your widow’s pension, for example, or reaching out to a professional for emotional support.
Focus on the good
Despite the many changes, there are a lot of positive things to focus on. This could be that your family ties have strengthened or that you made new friends in your current home.
Focusing on the good things doesn’t mean you have your head in the sand. It’s an essential self-care practice to uplift your own mood so you can be available to yourself and others in your life.
How To Help Someone With Grief Or Depression
People have varied ways of expressing and processing emotion in general, and mourning the loss of a loved one is no different.
Whether you’re learning how to be a grief counsellor and how to do grief counselling, or just trying to support a loved one who is grieving, here’s how to help someone with grief and guilt.
Make yourself accessible
Offer space for your loved one to grieve. This lets the person know you are available when they’re ready to talk.
You can invite them to talk with you but remember to provide understanding and validation if they are not ready just yet. Remind them that you’re there and that they should not hesitate to come to you.
You might feel the urge to hold back from helping someone dealing with grief out of fear that you’ll remind them of the bad news again, but it’s probably always inescapably in their minds.
So just say something comforting. The feeling that someone cares about you and your pain can be soothing to one’s soul.
Offer practical help
It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out.
A grieving person may not have the energy or motivation to call you when they need something, so instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” make it easier for them by making specific and practical suggestions.
Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same for the person dealing with loss and grief. You don’t “get over” the death of a loved one.
The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.
Be genuine in your communication
Don’t try to minimize their loss, provide simplistic solutions, or offer unsolicited advice. It’s far better to just listen to your loved one or simply admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.”
While learning how to deal with grief and how to overcome grief is a personal journey that is unique to all of us, you can talk to a counsellor online free in India to learn how to move through grief or how to deal with anxiety after losing a loved one.
This is the time to be gentle with yourself and get the help you need to move forward from grief. Are you wondering how to find a grief counsellor and how to get grief counselling?
Chat with a professional counsellor and learn how to process grief in therapy on the Ask SHEROES free online counselling chat helpline for women in India.