By: Leah Day
A global pandemic is probably not what anyone had in mind when they were envisioning 2020. For those in the loss community, the COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly difficult to navigate.
Physical distancing and self isolation can trigger feelings that we experienced after our loss. Often, the strategies we put in place to help with our loss are now not available to us. For example: visiting friends or family, seeing our social worker or councillor in person, being able to attend group bereavement meetings, even just the simple things like sitting in a coffee shop are now things we can not do.
But, what are some things that we can do to help make this a little easier?
During this time, you might need to talk to your social worker or therapist more often than before, and that is pretty understandable. Before the pandemic, I was seeing my social worker once a month and that was exactly what I needed. But when I was pushed into self isolation, I started talking to her once a week. I was then able to go down to once every two weeks. And now I reach out as I need it. This is perfectly okay, our lives have changed and needing help to navigate that change is normal.
Physical exercise! I know everyone says this, and I use to roll my eyes too. When I started seeing a social worker after the loss of my daughter, exercise was suggested to me as an outlet for some of the strong feelings I was having. And it helped. So in March when things began to shut down and I suddenly found myself working from home, I started going on daily walks. It varies daily, but I try and get 30 minutes of exercise most days. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to go for a walk everyday. There were some chilly days in April and May, but most days after my walk I feel a little better.
Find a sleep routine that works for you. I know for me, when I struggle with sleep, I often start struggling with my grief. But there are some things that can help. A warm bath, lavender spray, reading, light stretching, yoga and meditation are all great options that can help you fall asleep and have a better sleep. Also: maintaining a consistent bedtime. In the first few weeks of being
home all day, I allowed my sleep and wake times to be all over the place, and that did not help. Having a consistent sleep routine has really helped and cut down on the number of nights I just lie in bed staring at the ceiling.
Many people find it very helpful to have a place to write their thoughts down, an outlet that allows them to write down all the thoughts they may not want to share with the world.
Journaling hasn’t been something that I have been able to get into but I have heard that having a place to write down those thoughts that you can’t seem to let go of can be very therapeutic. It is often suggested as part of a bedtime routine, or when you are trying to sleep but you are having repetitive thoughts, journaling maybe a helpful outlet.
Meditation is another practice that I have not had great success with, but I do live with someone who practices daily meditation. My husband meditates every day. It is for sure a skill that takes work but can have real benefits especially when dealing with stressful or high anxiety situations. There are many apps that you can download on your phone or videos that you can watch online that guide you through daily meditations.
As an extrovert, I have heavily relied on phone and video calls throughout the pandemic. I am also a bit of a planner so I like to set up “talking dates” with my friends so that I know when I am going to get to talk to them. Video calls especially give me a small sense of normalcy. Being able to see them really makes a difference. I like having more than one person I can talk to about my stress and anxiety so that I never feel like I’m overloading one person with all my problems. I also find it very helpful to get different people’s perspectives.
When I started writing this post I reached out to friends in my loss community about what they have been doing that has helped them. A suggestion that I love was to have a project (whether it be work or home). Staying busy can be a great way to channel some of that energy and having some distraction can give your mind a break. We all have that drawer or closet that has gotten out of control, maybe now is the time to organize it. Or that garden that you only half maintain.
(Wait is that just me?)
Hope these suggestions help you manage this difficult time.