Grieving 2020: Looking Forward to the "New Normal"
While thinking about my next blog topic, I began pondering life and how it has changed over this past year. How much we've lost in terms of loved ones, jobs, businesses, personal interaction with others, or even just our daily routines. So much in our everyday lives has changed in such a short time.
In May of this year, I found myself going into what I referred to as funk. It lasted for a few months, and I couldn't figure out why I felt angry, depressed, and lethargic. I didn't want to do anything except binge watch mysteries on Netflix and Amazon Prime; (Poirot and Miss Marple were my daily favorites) to take my mind off of what I was feeling. It was a fun escape for a while; however, I always knew I had to return to reality.
During this time of Covid, my own business was in flux. I had little energy to help anyone, and I was angry that I couldn't move through this "phase" faster. As a performance coach, I help guide others to find their passion. I encourage my clients to take that leap of faith to grow in their life and business. I hold space for them to move through the uncomfortable and sometimes painful moments to fulfill their goals. Now I was going through an uncomfortable and painful moment of my own. I needed to make significant shifts in how I was going to move forward. I felt confused and alone, even with people around me. As I began to ponder all of this, I realized I was going through the grief process. I was grieving what should/could have been for this year. I was grieving the loss of personal interaction with family and friends. I was disappointed in what my business was supposed to look like and the income I was to earn this year.
Grief is a funny thing, in an awkward non-amusing way. It is a unique experience with many different facets. Grief is an internal reaction, whether it be the loss of a loved one through death, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the loss of our daily routine, or even the loss of an idea/ideal. Grief has no specific time for when it begins or when it ends and is a personal experience.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the famed psychiatrist and co-author of On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five stages of loss,
describes each stage of grief as:
1. Denial: the feeling of disbelief for what has happened
2. Anger: finding something or someone to blame-questions of fairness arise
3. Bargaining: the trade-off stage, making a deal with fate for more time
4. Depression: the sadness and helplessness stage
5. Acceptance: a sense of understanding and the ability to move through the grief process
Kubler-Ross states that grief is a fluid process, where one can move in and out of the stages at any time. It is important to note that grief is a natural process of life, and the multitude of feelings experienced can be mild to severe. The goal is to move through the grief process to come out on the other side with a greater understanding of the experience.
For me, acknowledging what I was feeling was the beginning of being kinder and gentler to myself. Allowing myself to feel the loneliness, anger, sadness, stress, and anxiety was the first step to creating a 'new normal.'
I learned that being present to what is happening in my life, feeling the emotions that arise is an essential part of moving out of the funk. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at times can be scary. Letting the tears fall when they need to is one of the best ways to release grief's pent up emotions.
I found that clearing out and organizing the clutter from my physical space cleared the confusion in my mind. I started small, cleaning out my purse, and moved up to organizing my kitchen cabinets. As I cleaned and purged, it became easier to move through the rest of the house. During this process, I found that physical and mental activity helped increase my energy and sense of accomplishment. I even wrote an ebook: "Simple Time Management Tips to Declutter and Organize Your Physical and Mental Space."
Writing during this time provided a refuge. One exercise, in particular, was writing down the thoughts swimming around in my head. Writing down these distracting thoughts freed up space in my mind for more productive thoughts to enter. After each writing exercise, I would end it with the phrase, "I write this down, so I don't have to carry it with me." I would then burn or shred the pages so I wouldn't go back and read them. I also began finding good things in my day to reflect on. These I would write down at the end of the day before I went to sleep. This process allowed me to develop a sense of gratitude. When my focus shifted from what I have lost to what I have, I began to see the sunshine and not the darkness.
Remembering to breathe was also a huge part of moving forward. It may sound silly. However, at times of stress, breathing is not something that some of us remember to do. Taking a few nice deep breaths can work wonders, clearing our minds and feeling more energized in our bodies.
One of the most important things I learned was to meditate. It helped to alleviate stress and anxiety, creating a very relaxing experience. In the beginning, I had to relearn the process. Learning any new skill requires practice before you can master the technique. These exercises are what helped me to move forward out of the funk. However, if you find yourself stuck in the grieving process reaching out for professional help is always a good idea.
When we allow ourselves time to process what has happened to us without judgment, it goes a long way to understanding ourselves and the world around us. Moving forward, we can focus on our 'new normal' by asking the questions. What experience can we create? How can we utilize our newfound knowledge to align our values and priorities to make sense of the current environment around us? Focusing on what we have and being ready, willing, and able creates the pathway to being better prepared for what comes next.