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Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions

https://estherperel.com/blog/anticipatory-grief

estherperel.com

Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions
Social distancing. Flatten the curve. Shelter at home. Three months ago, we had never even heard of these terms. Now, they've become defining features of our lives. We've embraced this vocabulary as a means of understanding this surreal period we're living through.

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Mental health during a crisis

Mental health during a crisis

The crisis caused by the new virus has left us with an unprecedented set of unfamiliar emotions.

We have highs and lows on top of the undercurrent of an unbearable dread. The undercurrent is multi-dimensional. Breaking it down into parts and naming it is crucial to our health, safety, and sanity.

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Prolonged uncertainty

Prolonged uncertainty

We are dealing with the feeling of uncertainty, and we don't know when our feeling of uncertainty will end.

We dream about when we can safely leave our homes, see our loved ones, and go back to normal. We wonder if our businesses will reopen or when we will stop feeling so paralyzed with fear.

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Ambiguous loss

We have lost so much, and many elements missing from our normal lives are intangible and can hardly be identified. Because it is ambiguous, we find it difficult to know what we are mourning.

It is a loss of the way we have lived, the boundaries between work, home, school. Our plans, weddings, birthday parties, loss of safety and trust in our leadership. The loss of connection, the fear of economic toll.

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Anticipatory grief

We live with the realization that we could lose our loved ones.

Those who are alone in quarantine grieve the loss of all direct human connection. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones who they couldn't touch or even be near at the end.

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Coping well during a crisis

Those who always look on the bright side are not the ones who cope the best in crisis. It's those who cultivate an attitude of Tragic Optimism - the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in crisis.

When we cultivate Tragic Optimism, we could turn life's negative aspects into something positive and constructive.

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What we can do

What we can do

We can identify and articulate our feelings to ourselves, our diaries, or our loved ones.

Identify your stress triggers and check in with each emotion: guilt, shame, helplessness, irritation, anger, disconnection, but also gratitude, love, and compassion.

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Do rapid interventions

  • Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to: news, arguments, and otherwise.
  • Get outside as best you can.
  • Short term strategies start in your body; breathing and stretching will help you relax and restore.
  • Reassure yourself that you are okay right now.
  • Focus on one breath at a time.
  • Thriving doesn’t always mean being productive.

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Resist advice to only be forward-looking

  • Take the time to look back at the stories in your family and cultures that deal with adversity and triumph.
  • This is not the first time we have risen to meet the challenge.
  • Some of us find that we’re well-prepared for this moment; for instance, OCD is a good character structure during this time.

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Reaching out

Reaching out
  • Check on each other. Who has reached out to you? Whom have you reached out to?
  • Organize or join a meaningful virtual group to keep you social, active, and accountable. Parents should talk to other parents. Children should talk to other children.
  • Start a Zoom yoga group, film club, or whatever else you’re into.
  • Call people while you’re cooking or walking, as you would do in normal life.
  • Volunteer online or in person. There are many groups that can use a helping hand. An added benefit is that it can pull you out of depression, guilt, or boredom.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Opportunity In Tragedy

Opportunity In Tragedy

Many of us can’t wait to get back to normal life. Others believe that is never going to happen, and that’s good.

Life before 2020 wasn’t perfect in any sense. We were financially, physi...

The New Normal

... requires a new mindset. Our lives are being redefined in front of our eyes, and this an opportunity to rebuild, reprioritize, reconnect, and even let go of some of the things that were holding us back long before the global crisis happened.

Feel The Pain

Many of us have lost our loved ones, jobs, human touch, safety and security, and many milestones of life. It is important to feel this misery, to experience the grief, as from this sadness and grief are what will help us accept reality, and provide us with the drive and energy to move forward. We cannot be stuck in denial any longer.

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We're feeling different griefs

We feel the world is different, and although temporary, we know it will not be the same again.

We feel the fear of economic turmoil and the loss of connection. And we're grieving c...

Anticipatory grief

Anticipatory grief is feeling unsure of what the future holds. It is that same feeling when someone gets a grave diagnosis. 

We know there is a storm brewing, and it breaks our sense of safety on a micro and a macro level.

Managing all this grief

Understand the stages of grief and realize that the stages are not linear.

Denial: The virus won't affect us.
Anger: You're taking away my freedom.
Bargaining: So, if I social distance for two weeks, will everything will be better?
Sadness: I don't know how this will end.
Acceptance: This is happening, and I have to figure out how to move forward.

Acceptance is where power lies. We find control in acceptance. "I can..."

Esther Perel

“Disasters generally operate as an accelerator in a relationship.”

Esther Perel

Couples under lockdown

Lockdown poses unique problems for couples who are isolating together.
People who are used to seeing their partner at the end of the day now are now living with the new reality of not only being full-time with their significant other but also working alongside them. This situation, together with the uncertainty of the whole pandemic crisis can create tension.

Different coping styles

There is a polarization going on around the way that people deal with fear, with anger, with the preparations in the face of disaster. You can find:

  • People that become clear organizers because order for them means making sense of the chaos of the external world and the one that is rising inside of them.
  • People wanting to talk all the time with other people and have a sense of what’s going on with everyone.
  • People thinking that their partner is not cautious enough.