Most adults already possess the recovery skills necessary to overcome grief. These skills are gained as we travel through life and experience several smaller, less significant losses. Losses such as friends, pets, special keepsakes, and moving help us develop these skills in increments. As time passes and we mature, we build up a repertoire of recovery skills so that when the time comes, we are prepared to survive the losses of our loved ones.
When we suffer the loss of a significant loved one, the excruciating pain and stress associated with that loss hamper our abilities to apply the recovery skills we have within our power to draw upon. Our minds are disorganized, we are filled with worry, and fear overtakes us. It is at this juncture that the love and comfort afforded us through our intimate circle of family and friends become our greatest assets. This circle of precious human beings can step in and calm our fears, significantly reduce our pain, and lessen the dangerous effect of stress.
Currently, the world over is suffering an order of social distancing. One wonders the long term effects of such an order. I recently flew from Texas to Idaho to visit my youngest daughter who is away at college. She is a darling girl who is very loving with a gentle spirit. Her classes are delivered over the internet each day and she works the night shift as an emergency operator/dispatcher. At her work, she is separated from other operators/dispatchers due to the COVID-19 directives. Even their breaks are staggered so that they do not risk contaminating each other should any of them carry the virus to work. For over a year, my daughter has been isolated away from family, friends, co-workers, and other students. Although she puts on a strong face, I see through it. She is lonely, she is isolated, and she is in pain.
Not only is my daughter isolated from family, friends, co-workers, and other students, but when she goes out in town to grocery shop or to get gas for her car, she and others must wear masks. The mask creates additional problems. It hides the facial expressions of those about you and makes polite, nonverbal communication impossible. It also hampers recognition of those we know and love, causing missed opportunities for socialization. It interferes with developing and maintaining friendships, as well as, basic human interaction. It increases isolation, feelings of loneliness, stress levels, claustrophobia, and in many cases, blood pressure.
Grief is brought on through the loss of something or someone we love. The directives of social distancing and mask-wearing bring on grief through the loss of personal contact and nonverbal communication; the very same losses experienced upon the loss of a loved one. The risk of complicated grief is significantly increased by these directives.
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Grief is a Response
Grief is a response to the loss of something meaningful.
One’s loss could be the ending of a friendship, the divorce of a marriage, changing jobs, or finding oneself in unfamiliar surroundings caused by moving.
By far, the most intense loss is that of a beloved living being. The loss of life is the only loss that carries total finality.
Even in cases of divorce, former spouses can be civil to each other and remain friends. With death, there is never an opportunity to bridge contact back with the deceased.
Because of the finality of death, some survivors may feel hopeless and that they need a therapist for recovery. Most people do not need the assistance or guidance of a therapist to obtain recovery. (Mourning Light III, 2019)
Social distancing and mask-wearing increase and prolong the pain of grief. In addition to these issues, mask-wearing adds to the stressful feelings of breathlessness.
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Sighing is a potent stress reducer and is normal among the recently bereaved.
It correlates closely with the feeling of breathlessness.
Over time, as one’s bereavement subsides, so too should sighing. (Mourning Light I, 2016)
With the current threat of increased health restrictions; most particularly that of double masking, we already see an increase in hopelessness. Hopelessness is reinforced through stress, as well as the loss of physical and emotional contact, stimulation, and support. Medical science has lost its balance between physical and mental health. The problem is that when your health is out of balance or neglected, poor health is the result. Poor health opens a wide doorway for serious illness to set in. And in this case, that doorway is inviting mental illness with open arms.
This stifling of socialization has nearly strangled the development of spiritual and emotional connection and love. Without a spiritual and emotional connection and love, physical appetites become impersonal. Impersonal physical satisfaction does not create an environment for the love spark to strike, kindle, or grow through shared experiences between human beings.
This lack of human communion creates an even greater emotional and spiritual deficit inviting hopelessness to overtake one’s mental stability. The end result is not at all desirable; indeed, it is a dangerous place to find oneself. It is precisely the reason we are seeing rises in suicide and crime rates. Rises in suicide and crime rates create even greater grief scenarios, increasing the number of grief ailments suffered throughout the population.
At this juncture, avoiding some level of grief is unavoidable. American’s have suffered losses of freedom in so many facets of life. And although one might believe that freedom is the greatest loss that American’s have suffered; the freedom to move about freely and interact freely, the greatest loss we have suffered is our loss of increasing love. The American culture is based on love; love for fellow man, love for liberty, love for progress, for family, etc. Love is what gives us our passion and without our passion, we will not fight for our freedoms. Without love we become disconnected. If we are disconnected we will not stand together, we are then divided; weak. Divided, we will fall; we will lose our freedoms, we will lose our will to live.
What then can we do to overcome these losses? First, we must take matters into our own hands and decide to recover.
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The first key is recovery is to DECIDE TO RECOVER. (Mourning Light III, 2019)
After we have decided to regain ourselves as our own masters, what is next?
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DISCOVER YOUR PURPOSE
While the first key to recovery is to decide to recover, the second key to recovery is to discover your purpose in life.
Without a purpose in life, it is impossible to recover to an acceptable standard of comfort.
You must have a purpose, a direction on which to focus your heart, mind, and efforts. Without such a purpose, your mind will dwell on the pain of your loss, and soon you will drown in anguish.
Your will alone will not bring total recovery. You must merge it with your mind’s ability to intellectually discern your purpose; your heart’s desire to serve, love, and accomplish that purpose; and your efforts to achieve your purposeful goals.
With profound purpose, your soul will redirect your energies toward its accomplishment, and the by-product will be grief recovery. (Mourning Light III, 2019)
In a world filled with a deadly virus, how does one discover their purpose? What is a safe purpose? What can be accomplished with such risks surrounding us everywhere we go? I do not have the answers to these questions. For me, however, my children and my grandchildren matter more than any other cause or group of people on the face of the earth. For me, sitting shut-in at home watching my children and grandchildren suffer is no longer an option. I would rather die than see them lonely or sad for one more day. They are my burning passion.
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Service to others brings instant movement away from the pain and anguish of grief. It moves your focus from the pain you suffer onto the needs of others. This redirection of focus brings progress to your life and allows your heart, mind, and efforts to carry your soul back to a meaningful and peaceful existence.
Service will not shrink the significance of your loss; it merely shrinks your focus on that loss. Shrinking your focus shrinks your pain.
Your focus of mind paired with your actions of service, work in concert to enlarge your ability to experience joy and peace once again. With that in mind, service should be your go-to treatment for recovery. (Mourning Light III, 2019)
My children and grandchildren live far away from my home; however, I have arranged to participate in their education this year. Through the miracle of Zoom, I will teach them gardening, canning, and French as a second language. I will spend several hours each week teaching and interacting with my loved ones.
Love, communion, and liberty are what we have lost as American’s. Our culture has been turned upside down and all around. In order to combat the ill effects of isolation, please reach out to those with whom you can safely enjoy personal contact. If you find yourself in an isolated situation as my daughter does, please utilize your phone communications to speak with lifelong friends and family. And here is an oldie but a goodie that has gone to the wayside of friendly and uplifting communication. Although it is not face to face contact, the art of written communication is a wonderfully cheerful physical representation of your thoughts and love for another. Receiving a beautiful card, handwritten letter, or box of sweet messages uplifts the soul and brings great joy. I try to send my children and grandchildren something in the mail at least once each month. When it arrives, they Facetime me and we enjoy the moment of their surprise together. It is a wonderful experience.
If you’re up to it, please join me in regaining your happiness in life. I’m tired of being lonely, isolated, sad, and a prisoner in my home. I refuse to be afraid of something that I cannot see, smell, taste, hear, or feel. I am an avid hand washer, and when I leave my home, I wear a mask because I believe in being responsible. For your safety, you probably should consider doing so as well. However, I’m tired of those people on the television telling me how I should act and what I should be afraid of. I’m saying goodbye to the fear and grief of this pandemic, and hello to the freedom to love my country, my children, my friends, my grandchildren, and to be and do whatever I want. That’s what I’m doing. I’m an American and I’m going to act like one. I’m reclaiming my dignity, my joy, my liberty, and my soul.
I hope that things will get back to normal soon, but in the meantime, I’m doing all that I can to make my reality a healthier and happier place. If you’re up to it, I hope you will too.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, Podcaster, and founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, Podcasts, and Grief BRIEFs related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award.
It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, please visit my podcast “Deadline” at https://open.spotify.com/show/7MHPy4ctu9OLvdp2JzQsAA or at https://anchor.fm/tracy874 and follow me on Instagram at “Deadline_TracyLee”.