When I think of the many feelings associated with grief, I picture a rubber band ball. It is as if, at any given time, you could pull on one of the rubber bands to represent “mad.” A few minutes later, you could pull on another rubber band to represent “glad.” Yet a few more minutes, and it could be “scared.” All with an undercurrent of “sadness” or “sorrow.” There is one particular emotion that I call “bittersweet.” It is when you have two sometimes-opposing feelings at the same time. For example, attending a grandchild’s wedding is most likely a happy occasion. However, if your spouse recently died and will be missed, it is also a sad occasion at the same time. In order to manage the feeling of “bittersweet,” it often helps to name both of the feelings that you are feeling and to recognize that this is a normal experience in grief.
Another feeling that is often underestimated is “anxiety.” People sometimes refer to it as “stress.” Or “nerves.” Anxiety can cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or faint. Or cause difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. You might even feel paralyzed or frozen. Or lose interest in eating. Or have stomach problems. Or lose hope. Anxiety can range from mild to severe.
Feeling grief and mourning a loss during a pandemic can have many different factors. Your loss might be due directly to COVID-19, or perhaps it occurred before the pandemic. Regardless, it is quite possible that anxiety is a factor in your grief.
If so, according to Robert Neimeyer (in his workshop When Grief Goes Viral), there are three areas to focus on that could possibly help you: calming your body, managing your emotions, and feeling a connection to others.
- To calm your body, consider progressive muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, mindfulness activities, and physical exercises. Relax before bedtime.
- To manage your emotions, you may want to take a “time out.” You may want to limit your exposure to news coverage of current events. Or do some type of art that helps you symbolize and verbalize the unspeakable. Drawing your own rubber band ball and filling in the spaces with names of your feelings may help you to manage your emotions.
- To feel a connection to others, build your own “community of care.” Reach out to individuals and groups that can provide support. Contact each other regularly.
Making a plan to manage your anxiety and practicing each component can help you feel more in control of your life and more hopeful.