COVID Pandemic: Grief and Gifts
As we near the one year anniversary of the COVID Pandemic, our lives have been ravaged on every level. We have spent much of the last year grieving our losses: personal, relational, professional, financial, and of course, loss of human life. Although there is hope on the horizon with various vaccines, we can anticipate there will be more loss impacting us in the months ahead before we begin to reclaim and restore our lives more fully.
As tragic as all this is, over the past year I have had the privilege of witnessing how my clients have experienced a series of "shifts" during this difficult time of heartbreak, stress. and overwhelm. It has reminded me that even during the darkest days of this COVID Pandemic, there is indeed Grief. And, if we are willing to receive them, there are Gifts.
Gift One: Less Is More
As soon as the pandemic hit, the brakes were put on our lives. Most of us were forced to come to an immediate stop or at the very least take our foot off the accelerator.Young people and adults alike are accustomed to going and doing, filling our lives with work, activities, and tending to our relationships. For so many of us, driving at a slower speed has been hard. The busyness of life has defined our quality of life.
Several of my clients have described how the pandemic has slowed everything down. Although they miss certain routines, they have taken advantage of this time to reassess how they are choosing to spend time, as a family, as partners, and as individuals. In doing so, they are being more selective about who or what they invite into their lives. Meaningful time together and purposeful activities define quality of life, not crammed schedules with stressed out adults and children.
Several of my clients have enjoyed working from home, taking advantage of the comforts of being in close proximity to loved ones. Many describe a more relaxed, calmer pace. Due to financial restraints as well as limited options, many parents are discovering creative ways to re-engage and connect with their children such as making or building things together, painting, wood-working, and crafting. A few couples are discovering their love for cooking or learning how to share in household responsibilities. Couples report an appreciation for the roles of one another. Another client, who was let go from a high pressure job within a toxic environment, has begun an online business. She is feeling less anxious and is sleeping better. Most importantly, clients have shared how doing away with constant distractions and overly-committed diversions has reduced anxiety and stress. This in turn has improved the quality of their wellbeing and of their loved ones.
Recently, a client thoughtfully disclosed her takeaway from this period of slowing down, "I've come to realize how much stuff my family and I don't want or need. We don't have to fill every minute and go, go, go all the time. We've come to appreciate one another and embrace that "less is more."
Before you read on, pause and answer these two questions:
How has your life slowed down?
What have you come to appreciate about "less is more" and how have you incorporated it into your life?
Gift Two: Learn What Is Important
Although this gift is similar to Gift One: Less Is More, it takes on a more personal and a deeper perspective. We must acknowledge that each person's loss is very individual, depending on its degree of importance and meaning. Over the past year, my clients have lost loved ones, pets, jobs, marriages, friends, relationships, and of course for many, a sense of security and safety. The degree of loss has been incalculable.
Remarkably, as clients have moved through their losses, each one in his/her own way and time, has surfaced through the crushing waves of grief. And as each one has begun to experience the calm of acceptance, each has shared how the loss has been a reminder of what is important. We see and hear on the news or on our social networking sites stories of lessons learned and of timely reminders: Hold each other tightly; Don't forget to say I love you; Don't let the sun go down on your anger. Most importantly, don't wait until someone or something is gone before you appreciate its meaning in your life.
One client spoke softly of her insightful gift during this time of loss, "Not only have I learned what is really important in my life, but I've learned how to be grateful for what is in my life today. Doing so has changed how I feel about everything and everyone. I feel blessed."
Before you continue, pause and respond.
What is important to you now that you didn't realize before?
What changes have you made or will you make?
This past year has been filled with discomfort. Of course, with physical discomfort, it is common sense to embrace any healthy remedy or strategy in order to diminish, manage, or extinguish it. With emotional or psychological discomfort, we also seek out solutions to lessen or eliminate our pain. Sometimes, our choices for doing so are healthy; sometimes they are not.
One of the most amazing gifts I have witnessed over this past year is how clients have chosen not to deny or disregard their psychological discomfort. Most importantly, they have chosen not to deal with their discomfort in unhealthy ways. Instead, they have chosen to lean into it.
This past week, I was blown away by three of my clients. For months, they have been unearthing and rooting out their discomfort. Bravely, they have forged their way through the thick awful muck of betrayal, deceit, rejection, abandonment, loss, and "not being enough." Dozens of times, each one of them could have given up, thrown in the towel, and run from the discomfort. Each one did not. Each stuck with the process of self-growth and is now emerging as a strong, resilient, empowered truer version of herself.
Although I think each one of these clients would have embraced her journey in her time, I believe that because of the COVID pandemic, each was forced to slow down and quiet the noise in her life. As each one leaned into her discomfort and faced hard truths, she chose herself. She understood she was important, as were her emotional wellbeing and her relationships.
At the end of our session last week, one client tearfully and joyfully acknowledged her growth, "I've been denying who I am for so long. But now, I am returning to who I am meant to be. Now I understand. I had to go through all this pain to get where I am right now."
What a beautiful testament to her vulnerability, strength, and courage. What remarkable growth as a result of receiving and embracing this Gift.
Before we close, pause and respond to these questions.
What discomfort have I been denying, or disregarding, or choosing not to deal with?
What am I willing to commit to in order to lean into my discomfort?
In closing, there doesn't need to be a pandemic to grab hold of these Gifts:
Less Is More, Learn What Is Important, and Lean Into Discomfort.
Each day, they are ours for the choosing. Now is as good of a time as any to choose YOU.
Coming Summer 2021!
A Path to Growth, Healing, and Transformation