May 3, 2021
By Ken Barringer
**Warning**. This blog post contains a surplus of simple questions and a shortage of simple answers.
How do we re-enter our lives? A deep dive? Cautiously dipping our toes in the water? What cues will the media give us about how to integrate our losses and go forward into the bold new world? Like it or not the media is extraordinarily powerful (of course you know this) and for purposes of discussion I’m lumping social media, television, streaming services and music under “media”. Many people get their directions on how to live, think and feel based on what the media is telling them. What are we going to be told and does it match for us? How and where will your courage show up to be true to yourself and your needs? Will you talk about your losses and experiences similarly to how you did before or now that “loss” and “grief” are more culturally comfortable terms will you feel different talking about yours? And to whom would you talk?
One the one hand we seem more at ease using the terms “grief”, “loss”, “anxiety”, “depression”, “mental health”. However, will we still erroneously think these are time limited issues even though we know more about them? Do we think getting back to our lives will make these feelings go away? We are going to be learning how to carry these losses forward with us – not putting them away. The pandemic is part of our DNA which we will pass on to future generations. Therefore, will it still require our attention (spoiler alert: yes)? Can we be alright pivoting between “everything is great again” and honoring ourselves when we are not having a good day?
The five areas grief show up are: emotional, behavioral, cognitive, physical and spiritual. For some of us managing our grief can arise in any or all five of these areas. If we can’t have the self-compassion to acknowledge when we struggle might grief show up in one of these planes unbeknownst to us? Grief as we re-enter could be a welcome guest to remind us to process where we have been. Grief could also be the guest that won’t leave because we don’t know it’s there. For example, might we just know we are numb (emotional), doing too much of something (behavioral), am always forgetful (cognitive), have an unexplained back ache (physical) or always seem to be questioning things (spiritual). Which would you prefer welcome or unwelcome?
The good news is we don’t have to answer these questions now. We can start to think about it and raise our awareness to what might be going for ourselves. We can also raise our awareness to another question: Who can nurture and tend to my vulnerability? Those who can, may not be the people you spend the most time with – or they might be. Also keep in mind that under ordinary circumstances, and depending upon our age/stage in life, there are a number of transitions happening in the spring anyway. For instance, if you are involved in academics in any manner the end of the school year brings loss and transition. Even if you have summer plans or are delighted to end the year, there is still loss and transition.
While we all want to “return to our lives”, we are nevertheless moving from what is now known to an unknown – with grief as a sometimes companion.