COVID-19, What a way to live through a pandemic, moving through the aftermath.
Early last year, we rarely thought of the word pandemic but we soon learned how one could change our lives in nearly every sense. Defined as an outbreak of disease that impacts an entire country or beyond, a pandemic can redefine how we do everything. With over 171 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and a staggering 3,556,895 deaths across the globe, have experienced the gamut of emotions, including grief at these profound losses. As of the end of May of 2021, 1.7 billion vaccinations have been administered overall and with this, a sense of hope has emerged. If we don’t process the collective grief that has enveloped us as a society over the past months, it will impact us negatively going forward.
The year was marked by a pervasive sense of loss. Our days were full of uncertainty and questions. We weren’t able to comfort loved ones in the hospital in person. We felt frustrated and scared. Deaths became the norm and without the standard ways to mourn, like participating in wakes and funerals, we were reduced to paying respects via online ceremonies, when possible. Recovery from this unusual year is a challenge.
The need for kindness has never been greater and the stories of humanity that we have witnessed are powerful and unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. Think back to when you first heard rumblings about a virus and the world started to close down. How did you feel? What did you think? Who did you talk to? The perception about the mysterious virus divided families and friends as some denied the crippling effects and others hunkered down to maintain their safety and that of their loved ones. The hope that this would pass in a few weeks turned into an undeniable reality that we underestimated in scope and reach.
Grief is a powerful experience that touches everyone at different points of their life. Grief can include loss of people you love, loss of rituals, inanimate objects, hopes and dreams, loss of safety, comfort, security and even the loss of relationships. Emotions churn up in the presence of grief, including anger which protects from vulnerability as well as sadness and depression. Feeling isolated from loved ones, healthy self-care and social connections can be harmful. Feeling unmotivated, irritable and possessing low energy is normal.
Now that the vaccine is creating a safer environment and life is starting to revert to pre-pandemic life, it can be difficult to navigate, especially when feelings of insecurity and fear block us from re-engaging with family, friends and our communities. When someone has unexpectedly lost a loved one to COVID-19, trusting the world that has been a frightening place can feel overwhelming. This process can take time. Having self awareness in a place that no longer feels familiar can help to establish reliance and modifications in moving ahead.
You may be wondering how to get yourself back. Self-care should be at the top of your list to re-establishing normalcy. It is empowering to use healthy skills in our recovery, including how to put these skills into action. Allowing us the proper time to grieve and adjust to our new normal is a gift we give to ourselves. Participating in psychotherapy can be a powerful way to feel grounded as we re enter the world around us. The support provided by therapy helps normalize our day to day life and honors our growth along the way.
We’ve come through a life-changing year. Now is the time to recover. We’ll never forget the loved ones that we have lost but by intentionally remembering and celebrating their lives, we can love each other on a level even deeper than we did pre-pandemic. Support is here to help you along your journey. You’re not alone and you can do this. Find support and embrace your new world.