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Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions

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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Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions

Anticipatory Grief and Other New Pandemic-Related Emotions

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

estherperel.com

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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