Life in lockdown: Turns out that feeling I can't explain is grief

That feeling you can't explain is grief
That feeling you can't explain is grief

As I juggle home and work and kids and family and lockdown and a global pandemic, I have found myself wrestling with a feeling I can't quite explain.

A sense of... doom?

It's not quite gloom, not exactly sadness. 

I reached out to Kate Rowe, a wellness coach who often provides us at Parent24 with support and advice for our readers, to ask her to help me with this.

She defined the emotion I'm carrying as grief. 

It's hard to understand it, at first glance. I haven't, personally, lost anything (yet).

I miss long walks with my sister and our kids. I'd like to browse the bookshelves of the local bookshop. I'd like to speak to my work colleagues in person. 

But, otherwise, I'm safe at home with my healthy family. We have been denied some liberties, but these are for our personal safety and for the greater good, and therefore it's not unbearable.

So why grief? Kate explains this to me too.

"We are collectively experiencing a time of huge change and loss. Loss of connection, loss of what we felt was secure and safe in our world, loss of a way of life, and with all loss there comes the process of grief and a letting go of what was," she says.

"Most of us will know that this will pass and we also know that things will never be the same."

But before we can make meaning of why this happened and create for ourselves a healing narrative, she tells me, we need to acknowledge where we are and what we are feeling: we need to feel our way through this time. 

Too many feelings

Honestly, I'm already feeling overwhelmed by all the 'feelings' and would love to rather ignore it, but this has proven futile over the last week, which was our first week of lockdown. 

I can merrily carry on with work, cook a meal or play with my kids, but then - wham - suddenly I'm on the verge of tears. 

I, strangely, find myself missing people I have never met, and places I've never been. 

I feel for my children, who don't understand but who have taken this all in their stride. They video call their grandparents regularly, and remind them to be safe. 

My five-year-old earnestly reminds my father in law that "old people get coronavirus and die from it." My three year old warns him not to touch any dogs.

I wonder what they're picking up from my conversations, and remind myself to watch my words. 

And then there are the news headlines. Thousands sick and dying around the world. Economies collapsing. 

We wait in anticipation for the next announcement of our own number of Covid-19 cases, and the death toll that creeps higher. 

It's a heavy, unwieldy, weight. 

The 5 stages of grief

Kate tells me the most supportive thing we can do for ourselves right now, when that feeling of grief arises, is to try to the best of your ability to acknowledge what you are feeling. 

"Familiarising yourself with the 5 stages of grief can be useful. You may have already seen some of the stages in yourself and people around you," she adds.

"You may have seen many people in the first stage of grief which is denial, and appears often as thoughts like “this is not real” or “it won’t affect me”."

If taking in any more information right now feels out of reach, come back to the present moment, do something which helps you to feel what you are feeling in the moment, she advises. 

You will move through the stages of grief at different times and in different ways. You may feel anger then sadness and back into denial.

There is no right way to move through grief, Kate reassures me. 

What you can do is find ways to acknowledge, and if possible share, what you are feeling with someone you trust.

Sadness is a necessary point of this journey, let the tears come.

Worst case scenarios

Kate says it's important to notice when your thoughts are spiraling in to worst case scenarios, and to try to find your way back to what is within your influence.

She suggests writing down what is out of your control, and what is in your control. This can include simple things, such as handwashing or checking in on friends. 

Then, to find a pathway through what can be very big emotions, come back to the present moment.

"Orientate yourself in the here and now by noticing the environment around you. What do you hear, smell, see, taste and feel," Kate says, adding that this is the simplest and most effective support you can give yourself, or use to help someone else to orientate. 

The final and perhaps most important thing to remember, she tells me, is to be kind to yourself and others.

We have never experienced something like this before, so be kind and compassionate to yourselves and others.

We are all doing the best we can, she reminds me.

Small steps

I also found this excerpt from a book comforting, and practical, and you might too: 

During difficult times, you move forward in small steps.

Do what you have to do, but little by bit.

Don't think about the future, not even what might happen tomorrow.

Wash the dishes.

Take off the dust.

Write a letter.

Make some soup.

Do you see?

You are moving forward step by step.

Take a step and stop.

Get some rest.

Compliment yourself.

Take another step.

Then another one.

You won't notice, but your steps will grow bigger and bigger.

And time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

Good morning.

- Translated from "The Room of Ancient Keys" by Elena Mikhalkova. 

How are you coping with the lockdown at home, and the wider impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?

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