If these feelings are grief, then what?

In my last blog contribution, I suggested that the uncomfortable feelings many of us are feeling are feelings of grief.  So is there anything we can do to feel more comfortable, especially as we are entering a further period of restriction and loss?

Just knowing can be helpful.  Knowing that these feelings are a natural and normal response to loss can help us towards acceptance and compassion for ourselves and for others.  We can be sure that others are feeling disconcerted and perhaps distressed by what has happened and the uncertainty that continues.  We are all in need of empathy, understanding, love and support as we navigate the ‘new normal’.

David Kessler reminds us that there are five stages of grief, that they are not linear and that we may move back and forth between them.  There is denial – for all of us, perhaps, early on and for some a permanent stance:This virus won’t affect me.  There’s anger: You’re restricting me and preventing me from doing the things I want to do.  There’s bargaining: OK, if I social distance for two weeks, everything will be better and then I can go back to life as normal.  There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will ever end.  Finally there is acceptance:These things have happened and this unpredictable situation continues;  I have to figure out  a way of living with the uncertainty and live my life as fully and satisfyingly as I can.  Acceptance is where the power lies.

We all want predictability and control, but we know that we can never really have these.  Life shifts and changes, sometimes more rapidly and drastically than we feel we can handle.  The place to be is in the present, as Jesus reminds us, dealing with ‘what is’ now, letting go of what we cannot control and dealing with what we can.  In practical terms, just taking a gentle full breath and letting it out slowly can help us come back to the present.  Naming five things in the room as we breathe can help to restore equanimity.  It slows us down.  It is easy to get ahead of ourselves and imagine negative scenarios.  Jesus reminds us not to be anxious . He asks, “Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? “ (Luke 12:25-27).  He reminds us that God knows our needs, just as he knows those of the lilies and the ravens.

It is important to acknowledge what we are going through.  To be kind and compassionate towards ourselves, recognising that we are human, that these feelings are real, a signal of our discomfort, but also, that they too will shift and change and pass.

Chris Dawson

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