Grief may be what you are feeling during Covid-19

No matter where you stand with your political or personal views from experience with the Covid – 19 outbreak, what is certain is your range of emotions.  The emotions that you are experiencing are the stages of grief.  Grief from not only losing a family member at this time but also losing what used to be our “normal”– day to day routines, friends/family, work, freedom to roam, and the list goes on.  

You Know What Grief Feels Like

We have all been through grief at some point in our lives; so you are familiar with what some of those stages can feel like.  Maybe you have even read up on the stages of grief and know what they entail.  The truth is that grief doesn’t come in just 5 stages and everyone experiences them at different times and maybe even a different order.  There is no “by the book” or textbook for grief…only a guide or reference.  So let’s talk about grief and how Covid-19 is influencing our emotions at this uncertain time.

Traditional Stages vs Reality

Traditionally “5 stages of grief” has always been the go to for people to discuss when dealing with grief.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  Even if you hadn’t labeled each stage, if you were going through a tragedy of death or sadness, you could probably look back and pinpoint certain stages you experienced.  Maybe even within a therapy session or reading a book, these stages helped you understand what you were actually feeling and how to navigate through.

five stage of grief

What has been discovered is that there aren’t really five linear stages but rather many areas and ranges of emotions.  One emotion can lead to another and/or stretch out into a deeper grief emotion.  For example, research has shown people experiencing denial which can extend into shock and complete silence.  Depression can expand into loneliness or reflection.  Bargaining can look more like an upward turn or a resurrection of one’s life in a way.  Acceptance leads to hope and a new “normal”. 

To Each of Their Own

Each person will experience death or tragedy in their own personal way.  Not one grief pattern is the same.  In fact, you may experience all emotional stages, 4 of the stages and/or repeat a few within a timeframe post death or traumatizing experience.  There are people who have also experienced PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)  like symptoms while being set off by something familiar reminding themselves of that experience.  The important thing to remember is that grief is personal and is healing.  There is no timeframe but it is important to recognize your emotions and get help/support when needed.

My Shelter in Place Experience Revelations

As I have been sheltering in place there came a revelation— What started out as denial quickly went to fear, anger, depression and then acceptance.  Although quickly going through each emotion over a few days, I would pull myself out and dig deep to find the “warrior within”.  

What does my daily life look like?

pictures of johnson pets

The Johnson Pets

Home with my two teenagers (scheduling home-school routines rounded out with downtime and exercise), one very happy golden retriever, 2 cats (oddly enough happy we are all home and getting extra cuddles)  and 1 baby bunny.  Although Eden Memorial is an essential business and our day to day has not really changed, I have been sheltered 3 hours away due to the fact that I live full time in the Bay Area with my children.  Within this experience, we have stayed healthy and responsible citizens– staying home and only going out when necessary for health or necessary items.  My ex-husband and I have agreed to be extra cautious keeping the children home with me and not going back and forth between homes.  My boyfriend, who also runs an essential business and due to his exposure, has chosen to stay sheltered away from us.  All in all, I am thankful for the health, safety of my family/friends and to be able to continue working and serving our clients.  But despite my experience I have noticed my range of emotions and how they mirrored the stages of grief.  As I spoke with friends, colleagues, clients and family I noticed the same pattern.   And just as in grief when we lose a loved one; we all experience the stages differently and at different times.

Labeling My Feelings

I started to take notes and label my feelings day to day and week to week.  First was denial which quickly shifted to fear, then anger which morphed into indifference. Short span of depression came next, then back to anger…finally I have made it to acceptance.  I noticed people close to me going through the same thing.  One friend seemed one week behind my emotions and another friend experienced all emotions simultaneously with me but now is going through them again!  

What are we Grieving?

So what are we grieving?  None of us have ever dealt with something of this magnitude in our lifetime.  Our normal day to day routine, companionships of partners, closeness with friends/family, loss of jobs, loss of memories for our children graduating and celebrating milestones in their lives.  We could go on and on….the fact is our life has changed and many of our rights and freedoms taken away.  Even though we may have not experienced the death of someone we know…it’s a life we once knew.  It’s only natural to grieve that loss.

Our New Normal

This is such an overused phrase now…”this is our new normal”….but it’s true.  This is our new normal life for now and quite possibly for a long time.  So how do we deal with that?  Right now there is no “thinking outside the box”…this is what it is….this virus is here and our states are in lockdown.  So it’s time to think about how to best acclimate to our new surroundings.  Grieve your loss of your “old life” and start making new routines.  Look at your life and see what are the things that I need to do day to day to keep myself in good mental health.  And when this is over, what are the new routines or things I implemented into my life that I want to keep?  Are there things this experience has taught me about myself, how I live my life, how I spend my time with work or family? 

gus gus stay at home

How Can My Pets Help?

Your pets love you unconditionally.  They provide such a beautiful emotional support and therapy when you are sad.  So enjoy them and enjoy the extra time home with them; walking, grooming and daily interaction.  This is a great way to also work through these stages of grief.  There is nothing like going on a walk with your BFF (best furry friend) and clear your mind, soul and heart.

What if my Pet Passes Away During Covid-19?

To all experience this Pandemic and the daily stresses of it; but then to lose a loved one!  It can be completely devastating and incapacitating.   We have seen so many clients in the last 6 weeks who are suffering from the loss of their BFF as well as living day to day with Covid-19 repercussions.  We are here for you as always.  At Eden Memorial we have had to take extra precautions and close our reception and viewing rooms; but our normal cremations and services continue.  We are servicing local veterinarians and offering walk in services.  Our walk-ins are not as personable as we would like at this time; but we are doing very best.  All our clients have been extremely understandable and know we are doing this for everyone’s safety.

If you are experiencing a pet’s death or an elderly pet that you are concerned for, let us know.  We can assist you in answering questions, giving you options and helping you through the process.   If you have already lost a pet during this time and experiencing traumatic grief, we can also help with our grief counselor and/or referring you to a reputable licensed therapist.

We will get through this

The reality of this is that we will get through this.  Yes our world may look different and hopefully more “normalcy” as we once knew will return.  But with struggle comes growth…with grief comes appreciation.  So be gentle with yourself and know what you are experiencing is completely normal.  There are avenues to choose in order to help you through any struggles whether it be grief support, therapy or activities.   The important thing is to recognize your grief and experience it to the fullest.  Work through each stage and let it run its course.  When we call out our grief stages it helps us process and work through it.  So don’t be afraid to face grief head on!  And remember you have support!

picture of christine johnson author