Most of us usually associate the term “grief” with the loss of a loved one as the emotion we experience when someone we care about passes away. But I believe many of us could be experiencing Anticipatory Grief during this COVID-19 crisis. Anticipatory grief is a feeling of grief occurring before an impending loss. Usually anticipatory grief is felt when someone we care about is close to dying because of an illness. But, it can also be felt due to non-death-related losses. Needless to say, there’s a lot to be grieving about right now during thisCOVID-19 pandemic.
Due to National, State and Health Department directives, as well as concern for our own personal health and well-being, our “normal” isn’t so normal right now. We’ve lost in-person connection with our families and friends. We’ve lost our normal routines. Some of us have already lost jobs and, yes, some of us have lost loved ones. We’ve lost certainty about the future. We mourn all of these losses.
Like me, you might be wondering if you are experiencing this kind of grief. Well, here are a few indications that you could be.
Feeling on edge
Many of us are feeling a sense of dread; we’re waiting, it seems, for what’s going to happen next and wondering how it will affect us. This may cause us to react strongly to things that normally wouldn’t bother us. We may be experiencing a heightened alertness to our surroundings. This is commonly known as hypervigilance. For example, as I write, the breeze is blowing the wind chimes hanging outside my kitchen window. Normally I enjoy hearing them, today I find them annoying. I realize it’s because I’m feeling on edge. During this crisis, we can’t help but hear all the news of the people it has affected thus far, and we are constantly wondering what tomorrow is going to bring.
Feeling angry at things you can’t control
During these abnormal times, we are all experiencing things that are out of our control. Feeling angry is commonplace when experiencing grief.
Being unable to find your favorite brand of toilet paper at the store where you shop may have been a minor inconvenience in the past; but, now you’re angry with the store for not having enough toilet paper in stock. Having an unexpected day off of work or working from home used to feel like a “bonus” but for many it now feels like a punishment. I’m personally feeling angry that I can’t visit my Dad (a resident at an extended care facility) because of restrictions during this pandemic – even though I know it’s to protect his health and is, of course, a protective measure for everyone.
So, if you’re feeling likewise, you’re not alone. It’s a completely normal reaction to grief. Don’t beat yourself up and try going easy on those others who are getting under your skin. They are dealing with all the same uncertainties also.
Stress and anxiety caused by grief and anticipatory grief can leave us completely exhausted. Our bodies are reacting to the various stresses caused by COVID-19, and at the end of the day we may feel completely worn out and run down. It’s a common grief experience.
It can be difficult during this pandemic to hear so many people talking about their high levels of productivity even as they self-isolate while complying with stay-at-home orders. You could start feeling pretty lousy hearing about those accomplishments while you can barely get off the couch. I’ve experienced this myself. I have a “to-do” list of everything I want to accomplish around my house while I have all of this extra time, but some days my body feels so tired and worn out that I end up doing nothing.
Remind yourself that you’re not alone and that your exhaustion is pandemic-induced. If your body is telling you to rest and have a lazy day, it’s okay. The important thing to remember is this: just stay healthy.
Some suggestions you can try if you feel you are experiencing Anticipatory Grief:
Be kind to yourself. Each individual experiences grief differently. What you’re feeling is not unusual and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for these feelings.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but it is especially important to stay fed, hydrated, and rested during any type of grief. Try to relax during this pandemic (I know, easier said than done). Our bodies and minds need time to decompress from all the uncertainties of COVID-19.
Stay Connected. When experiencing grief, it can be so tempting to just shut the world out; but, you really should try to avoid this. Human connection is so vital to our well-being. Even if you are limited, due to COVID-19, to only being able to make/receive phone calls, pick up the phone and stay connected with people you care about.
Reach out to a professional. If you are feeling completely overwhelmed during this pandemic and you need more support, talk with a professional. You are worthy of taking whatever steps you feel are necessary to help yourself understand and work through your feelings.
I hope this helps but most of all I hope you stay safe and stay healthy!