Dealing with a Sense of Loss during the Covid-19 Outbreak

You have probably heard that many people are dealing with anxiety during the Covid-19 outbreak.  Many people are also dealing with “loss” – loss of life, loss of health, loss of jobs. But “silent loss”, such as missed graduations, canceled sports seasons, postponed weddings and vacations, separation from family and friends, loss of enjoyments, etc. can contribute to a sense of sadness and grief. Here are some steps that might help deal with this:

1. Acknowledge the grief

Grieving is a quiet process. We don’t like to feel pain and try to push it away. As a result of this, we might struggle to relax, we might feel exhausted, be short-tempered, or have issues with our appetite. We might struggle to concentrate or to sleep. We might feel on edge and hyper-vigilant. We might be ruminating about worst case scenarios that make us worry even more. We might feel like withdrawing and avoiding other people.

The more we can say to ourselves and others, “Yes, these are meaningful losses, I should acknowledge and feel them, they are legitimate” the more genuine and soothed we will feel. Validate and affirm your feelings. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and to others.

2. Stay in the present

With the Covid-19 situation bringing so much uncertainty (“ambiguous grief”) - how long this will last and what will happen next - we not only grieve current losses, but we also grieve those not experienced yet (“anticipatory grief”).

Instead of being in a constant state of worry over things that might (or might not) happen in the future, we can focus on the present. While feeling loss in the present, we can also acknowledge feeling safe exactly where we are, with a good book on the sofa, messaging with our friends, etc. As Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche advises, “Enjoy the flowers on your balcony, listen to the birds chirping beautifully, feel the warm sun on your skin, and smile.”

3. Take care of the basics

Stay well fed, hydrated, and rested at this time.  Prioritize rest and relaxation.

4. Express yourself

Creative outlets such as journaling, dancing, collaging, etc. might help you to deal with your emotions and feelings.  

5. Let people experience loss in their own way

Grief can show itself in many unique ways; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, etc.  Let people do their grieving in whatever way works for them. As a good rule of thumb, “You do you, and let others do them”.

6. Connect with others, even when you don’t want to.

Resist the urge to shut everyone out. Human connection is crucial for our well-being, especially now.

7. Set boundaries

While staying connected to others, keep firm boundaries about what kinds of support you can offer. For example, you might want to say, “I’ve been having a really hard time with this Covid-19 stuff. Can we keep the conversation light today?” or, “I’m struggling at the moment and will not be able to support you in that way right now. I’m happy to (play a game/check in by text later on/…) instead if that would be helpful.”

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with setting whatever boundaries you need in order to take care of yourself.

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