In my first entry of “Anxiety in Grief”, I explored the idea that anxiety is a common experience within the grief process. This concept is presented and discussed in the book Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, by Claire Bidwell Smith. As a child and adult therapist in Washington, DC, I have experienced anxiety as a part of grief in professional and personal experiences. In addition to discussing how anxiety flows throughout the stages of grief, I also make the connection that grief surrounding the pandemic is very present for many people. This grief and related anxiety permeate both our conscious and subconscious minds, leaving us always on high alert.
Bidwell Smith makes reference to the book Resilient Grieving, by Dr. Lucy Hone. Dr. Lucy Hone has been influenced by the contemporary research of Dr. George Bonnano, who introduced the controversial idea of resilience into the study of loss and trauma. As I reflected upon their work and the strategies that have been identified as useful for grieving with resilience in mind, I continued to think of the pandemic. I wondered about the processing and healing that may prove useful for the wellbeing of our communities, cities, countries, and world.
I would like to share the ideas about resilient grieving with readers here who may be interested in employing steps towards grieving the loss of life prior to COVID 19. While these ideas are not meant to replace therapy or mental health treatment, they may prove useful. Dr. Lucy Hone writes, “Throwing yourselves into recovery doesn’t mean hiding from grief…It just means you go with the present experience…you open up to them and let them in – but you choose to get up in the morning and go out in the knowledge that, if you want to win this fight for survival, you’ve got to step up and take control.”
So here’s to the survivors on a mission to move forward while honoring what was. Just like when we lose a useful item, we can adjust to a new way of living without the item, yet also have joy and meaning ahead.
The Basics for Resilient Grieving (according to Dr. Lucy Hone):
- Establish Routines: Regular schedule and routine work to soothe both the body and the brain, letting our unconscious know that we are safe.
- Examine what is working: Ask yourself, “Is this behavior helping or harming?” Pay attention to what you are focusing on. Release unhelpful thoughts and move away from them.
- Ask for Help: It is common to shy away from this, as admitting a need for help can bring an additional sense of loss…loss of independence, feeling we are a burden. Shifting to the sense of us all being interdependent can help.
- Nurture Your Physical Body: When grieving, it is common to experience lack of appetite, lethargy, etc, so being proactive about health is of vital importance. Healthy foods, exercise, and rest will reduce stress and anxiety levels.
- Seek Positives: Practice making gratitude lists, remind yourself to acknowledge and focus on positive moments and experiences
- Distractions: There is a fine line between healthy distractions and negative ones/numbing, so check in with yourself to check on whether you’re using a distraction in order to avoid the grief process.
- Create Rituals: Find ways to bring what was lost into life now. Our inner selves crave connection with our past. Create a way to continue the bond with your past.
- Connect with Others: Seek out those who understand what you’re experiencing. Reaching out to a friend who is familiar with your feelings. Do things that keep you from feeling too alone.
- Make Meaning: Making meaning (not sense) of the loss is invaluable to your sense of peace. Find ways to make what was lost still have meaning.
- Accept the Loss: Opening up to the changes, facing related emotions, “stepping into pain to move through it”
Remember that your process is yours alone. No two people process just alike. It takes time and does not occur at once or in a linear pattern. Wishing you wellness on your journey of survival. We’re still standing. Let’s keep surviving together.