May 4, 2020
By: Emma Grimstead
Today, we were supposed to be finalizing renovation designs. In a week, my students were to be putting on an incredible musical for their peers, family and friends. In a month, I would be teaching ata school board arts camp for an entire week – creating connections for our business while also getting to work with incredible, dedicated young performers. In two months (or so) we would be boarding a plane to go on a honeymoon. I have never been overseas – this was my chance to travel with my now husband as we never have before. None of those things are happening now because of the current global situation.
In my head I can justify and understand that these are SMALL sacrifices to make for the safety of my family, friends and community …but I am still mourning and I am allowed.
I am sad for these losses, as I know so many people are, and we are allowed to feel that way. We are allowed to feel whatever we are feeling and do so without judgment of ourselves or others. We are allowed to grieve collectively for the missed birthday parties, family gatherings, paychecks, trips, graduations, proms, renovations and weddings. These ARE losses and we are grieving them.
Though I can logically work through what is happening and understand why these things are cancelled, my body has been having a different reaction to this grief.
Our bodies feel grief in fascinating ways. Some nights you’ll be up with racing thoughts, and the next you’re so exhausted that you fall asleep straight away… just to wake up feeling exhausted again. For many people, like myself, grief can affect our digestive systems. Our normal eating patterns have been disrupted leaving us with typical IBS symptoms but also we may feel nauseous or queasy. While I have more time on my hands, I feel a lack of energy; unmotivated some days and overwhelmed. That low energy? Another sign of loss and grief. Weight gain? That can be grief saying “Hello”. Weight Loss? Grief. Sleeping too little or maybe sleeping too much? Grief. Headaches and Muscular pain? Grief.
Just researching the effect grief can have on our bodies can enlighten us to what is going on and how we are feeling about the sudden losses caused by this pandemic.
I am not saying all your symptoms and ailments are related to this quarantine/social isolation… but it has been an eye opening place for me to start to begin understanding the impact it’s truly having on me.
Our bodies are remarkable, the connectivity of our minds and bodies is truly fascinating and in a situation like this I am reminded just how symbiotic they are. My body is reacting to all that is going on even when my mind can understand it and seems to feel at ease. My body is telling me that I am not 100% okay – that I am grieving and I have to let that be okay…
So, now that I understand what I am experiencing as grief (or even just something similar) how am I going to manage it?
There are certain things you can do to help, such as: staying hydrated, exercising, getting proper rest, and being mindful of how we’re fueling our bodies. These are actual tangible things I can do to help myself cope with the world as it is right now. I have given my experience a name and now I have a couple tools to help with it. Will I be perfect? Of course not. Will I try? Why not? Some of these tools might even seem contradictory. Didn’t I say that grief made these things harder to do? It’s true, grief will make these things seem so much harder… but simply giving your experience a name makes the ways to work through it more clinical and necessary rather than just “something you should do”.
I will allow myself to grieve all these losses without judgement of myself but I will also work to find ways to adjust, cope and manage the effects that loss has. I will use the new creative expression outlets I have found to give me new goals and purpose and as a tool to MINIMIZE the losses.
For example, I am teaching the majority of my classes via Zoom! It makes me feel connected with my students and allows us to have that creative outlet we are used to having. Since starting this, I don’t feel the same loss I did when I missed my students and teaching. Working towards a show despite not knowing when the show will happen has given me that same sense of purpose, creation and connection. I minimized that loss.
In a strange way, I am actually connecting with family and friends more than I ever have before. I am finding projects to be excited about rather than trips or major home renovations. I am using the financial assistance from our government to minimize the impact of the lost paychecks. I am trying to minimize the grief, not eradicate it.
We are going to feel so many feelings with what is going on and we will feel sad – but we can also look for ways to make some of the losses feel slightly smaller. Let yourself grieve the little things along with the big. Let’s talk about how the grief is affecting us in ways we didn’t even realize, and let’s be creative in the ways we can adjust our normal routines to minimize that loss.
This situation won’t go on forever.
But until that day I want to say that I am sorry for all you are missing out on, I’m sorry for your cancelled plans and missed special moments. I am sending you all love, understanding and a virtual hug.