Dealing with lockdown and feelings of loss
I believe that whenever we go through a significant change in our lives we experience the same sorts of feelings we do when we suffer a bereavement.
I apply this even to positive change because it is natural to grieve some of the old - even if we are replacing it with something new and exciting. Take early retirement, for example, you may be really excited to leave, take your pension and have the freedom to do lots of things, go places and call the shots on how you spend your time. Remember it's perfectly natural to grieve a bit for the daily routine, your old colleagues, putting on 'work clothes" or even the daily commute!
I believe that we are all going through a collective grieving process at the moment during the coronavirus pandemic. Unless we are key workers we are only allowed out for one period of exercise, for medicines and essential shopping.
We have lost choice over how we spend our day and who we spend it with. We have lost our routine, for some of us our sense of purpose and for a lot of us our income. We have lost whatever was "normal" for us.
Sadly and tragically for some of us, we have lost people we love and with that, the decision of how we say goodbye to them - and that will make the double sense of grief even harder to deal with.
My focus here is on how we are all trying to make sense of this situation. The sense that control has been taken out of our hands and we don't know how long it will be like that. By understanding that some of our feelings are the sense of loss for what was and are normal, we can perhaps begin to be a bit kinder to ourselves.
If we look at the five stages of grief (Kubbler-Ross) this is how it might be playing out:
- Denial: "I don't need to socially isolate, I'm fine."
- Anger: "This is ridiculous, why can't they get this situation under control."
- Bargaining: "If only this was over I promise I will never moan about having to go to work again."
- Depression: "I just feel so sad all the time and I can't be bothered."
- Acceptance: "This is the way it is now and I want to make the best of it."
Not everyone will experience all of these and there is no order they should go in, nor are they experienced only once, but realising these feelings are normal in this very abnormal situation can be comforting.
However, I think we should also be prepared that the longer we are in lockdown the more likely we are to go through this process all over again; when businesses re-open, we are asked to go back to work, setting the alarm, we have to navigate others on trains, busses, queues, etc. We will be anxious about whatever the new "normal" is going to look like - what will society look like? Will our job have changed? Will we even want to return to what was if that is an option?
It's likely we will have made the current situation ok to a degree to enable us to cope with it. And it may sound strange but we may well experience the same feelings of loss all over again. Might we miss the new norm we have created?
In addition, we may have spent some time reassessing what or who we want to re-introduce into our lives and that undoubtedly will be accompanied with feelings of guilt and loss about those people or things we want to let go.
These are by no way the only thoughts and feelings we are having right now but I hope that this may help you understand a little bit about how our mental health is being affected. You may never have had to think about your mental wellbeing before but even if you feel that this doesn't apply to you, it could give you insight into what others may be experiencing. That can only serve to make us all a bit more compassionate and kinder to each other. And remember to show that compassion to yourself too.