How to Deal with Grief and Other Strong Feelings during the Coronavirus Outbreak

By Simona Rimkutė

Today we are dealing with a global health crisis. We know that the crisis is temporary, yet the difficulty in predicting when it will end causes a feeling of uncertainty and raises anxiety about the future. Our lives are affected by the pandemic as each of us is individually facing the consequences of the crisis.

We are forced to change our daily routines, to reconsider the foreseeable future and adjust our plans to the current situation. While for some people, these inevitable changes are manageable, others may be having a more difficult time coping with the new ways of living. 

The world is changing and so are our student lives

The frontline leaders have set all their forces to fight against the virus. In the meantime, the rest of humanity is obliged to stay at home. A slower-paced life has led some people to take the opportunity to work on their tasks, pick up on old projects or learn something new, while for others it has been a struggle to keep their focus and continue with their responsibilities.

It is a difficult time, and everyone is dealing with the crisis in their own way. It is okay to feel more stressed than others, to feel tired, unmotivated, confused and unable to work efficiently. Staying emotionally sober is the best way to handle the worldwide crisis, but this ability does not come to everyone naturally.

Taking some time to check in on ourselves is the most crucial thing to do to make the changes more bearable. Ruined semesters, difficulties in studying and uncertainty about the continuation of the future study plans have caused students many disappointments. During the times of lost normalcy, we are experiencing many different emotions.

Overwhelming emotions – grief is often one of them

Grief has been addressed as one of the feelings that most people have been experiencing lately. In the Harvard Business Review, David Kessler, an expert on grief, stressed that we are grieving collectively and personally over the sudden changes in the world. The acknowledgement of this grief can be the first step to manage it.

In the interview, Kessler named five stages of grief and emphasised that they do not necessarily come in one order. Each of us may deal with specific points of grieving at different times.

  • Denial, however, is often the first phase, in which we refuse to admit the effect that the virus might have on us. Recently, it might have felt that the virus would not reach us, and probably most of us were not feeling any of its consequences.
  • After universities and school were closed, most events and plans were cancelled and to follow the usual life routine became impossible. All these abrupt changes may have awakened feelings of unfairness and annoyance. This is when the second part of the grieving begins, and anger takes over our emotions.
  • Subsequently follows the bargaining, where we ask how long this will take, hoping for even the slightest reward for all of our sacrifices.
  • Unfortunately, even the nearest future remains ambiguous, and the emotionally straining uncertainty leads to the fourth stage – sadness.
  • Eventually, if we allow ourselves to feel everything that has been building up inside of us, we can finally accept things the way they are and move forward. It is the final stage of grieving, in which the incredible power lies within the acceptance. We realise we might not be able to change what’s happening, but we can do our best to adapt and make the best out of it.

How do we deal with grief?

Naming the feeling we have as grief can be a powerful moment which enables everything inside of us to be felt. Emotions need motion in order to change and only by acknowledging our feelings can we find the encouragement to move forward. To focus on letting go of things that are out of our control, and taking this situation as a given can preserve the motivation to carry out responsibilities.

The uncertainty may come as an obstacle to maintaining a productive lifestyle during the worldwide crisis. However, some small yet crucial pieces of advice could become our daily mantra in dealing with overwhelming emotions, including grief:

  • Keep an eye on our feelings. The most powerful way to deal with emotions is to allow ourselves to feel them. Our minds and bodies produce feelings, and we are responsible for experiencing them. 
  • Be patient and let the process unfold naturally. Each of us is dealing with grief differently, and there is no right or wrong way of how we should be feeling right now. The duration of overcoming these emotions is not the same for everyone; each case is unique and needs personal care.
  • The mind and the body are connected. Thus, being cautious about our physical health can improve our well-being. Having enough sleep, drinking enough water, moving and eating nutritious foods can be an excellent support for our overall health.
  • Write down our feelings. Sometimes expressing the emotions can be easier said than done. Keeping a journal or writing morning pages is a great way to put down the thoughts in one place and make the mind a bit brighter. Making sure that nobody will read these thoughts can create a safe and private experience and enable a more honest expression of your feelings. 
  • Take small steps and do what we can at this moment. The current situation is not a sprint, and we do not need to compete in who is handling the case better. Defining our limits and moving on at our own pace is what we should focus on.

The coronavirus crisis is temporary, but the way we deal with it and whether we accept it or not will influence how we proceed with our lives. Taking this advice into consideration can help to achieve a calmer state of mind and find the balance in this uncertain world.

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