COVID-19: Help for Grief

It’s like there’s a dark cloud called COVID-19 hovering over us. It’s generating worry, irritableness, discouragement, and especially tiredness.

What is this dark cloud? What is it that is sapping our energy and causing stress reactions?

Author David Kessler calls it “anticipatory grief.” But probably we feel it as anticipatory anxiety. We worry and ruminate about our health, our family members, the news, our job, and finances. We imagine bad scenarios in the future.

The truth is that underneath our anxiousness we have sad feelings over all that we’ve lost and more losses to come. (See Kessler’s article, “That Discomfort Your Feeling is Grief” in the Harvard Business Review.)

It’s the most painful and vulnerable experience when a loved one dies. To lose anything that’s important to us is sad. But to be tearful, emotional, or needy may feel too vulnerable. So we tend to distract ourselves with busyness, entertainment, or eating.

When we go through loss what we most need is to receive comfort from God and a friend. In the Bible, we see many examples of this, like when David went through loss and verbalized his tiredness, anxiety, and sadness with the Lord and his community in Psalm 6:2-9.

To grow through grief starts by naming our losses:

Loss of safety from seeing so many people getting sick from COVID-19, suffering, and dying.

Loss of jobs, routines, and money.

Loss of fun events and freedom of movement.

Loss of opportunities to “touch” family and friends and to feel the warmth of God’s loving presence through physically being together. (See last week’s Soul Shepherding blog: “COVID-19: Feeling God’s Love Despite Social Distancing.”)

Since grief triggers grief there are even more losses. You may miss a loved one who died, remember a past loss, or feel a heavy weight of old grief being triggered. (We talked about that on today’s “Soul Talks” podcast: “COVID-19: The Tiredness You Feel is Grief.”)

The famous grief stages help us understand our experience with loss. Kessler expanded on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ work. He says the stages are not linear but dynamic phases of grief that we go back and forth between.

Let’s name these different feeling states of our grief in these coronavirus times. This can connect you with comforting empathy from God and friends, gives you insight about your journey, and releases new energies for living and working.

Denial: “I won’t get sick… I’m healthy, this virus won’t affect me…”

Anger: “I don’t want to cancel that event… I’m not staying cooped up in my house—I’ll just carry on with my life and work…”

Bargaining: “I guess I can do social distancing for a few weeks then everything will be better…”

Sadness: “I’ve lost important relational connections… I miss my freedom… I’m sad for my friend who got sick…”

Acceptance: “I can ‘shelter-at-home’ to help stop the spread of COVID-19… I can learn to do some of my work online… I can connect with others by video conference…”

Meaning: “I enjoy having more time to walk alone in nature and pray… I’m learning to “touch” people on a video call… I can help my church deliver food to kids in need…”

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Listen to today’s SoulTalk: The losses we’re experiencing in this coronavirus season can leave us feeling weary and heavy. The grief is real and needs care. In this candid conversation, Bill and Kristi unpack the stages of grief and what it looks like to grow towards deeper integration and connection with Christ. Bill and Kristi also share about free resources to help you process the grief in this season.

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