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Op/Ed

Processing emotions during COVID-19: It may be grief you’re feeling

(EDITORIAL) During a global pandemic, there is a rollercoaster of emotions and these two things may help people process some of their feelings which may be grief.

grief

Is part of what we have all been feeling these past couple of months grief? Some say yes, so let’s take a look at what we have been doing and feeling.

I don’t know about you but the first few weeks of March I went in to productive overdrive but not the self-care kind like making new recipes, starting new work outs or painting for creativity and fun. I was trying to complete my work priorities, side business client work and co-host free webinars (via Zoom of course and one even on Webinar Ninja) for my small business community and followers.

I also suddenly had to figure out to be productive while my husband was home and our toddler was with us with not much notice of her daycare being closed. The first two weeks felt hellacious – high anxiety, never feeling like I was doing enough or was present enough.

I woke up and got right to work in my t-shirt and yoga pants, some days forgetting if I had brushed my teeth or washed my face. Taking a shower felt like a luxury but also sometimes a nuisance to try to fit one in. That was strange. I saw my daughter as needing attention as something I had to sort out -also with a guilty feeling that I knew she should be priority but “if I could just get this last project wrapped up or email sent out” or “after I jump on this Zoom call”, I can then take a break and be with her.

Albeit the break was filled with anxious thoughts of how I had to get back to work. My husband was dealing with his own shift in work having many clients pause and see when/how he could work from home. He was grappling with all the general unknown as well as both of us wondering what did this mean for our finances.

This has been an absolute conflict of emotions:

  • Gratitude that we were able to be home – safe and healthy at least for now
  • Scared and grappling with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety
  • Blessed for having some income we could rely on
  • Sadness for having lost some income but not quite sure how much or for how long
  • Worry for others that have lost everything – their livelihoods, their day to days, their LIVES?!
  • Worry for our older parents that live far away and are immunocompromised (not sure we had ever used this word to refer to them) but also happiness that they seem to be doing okay
  • Excitement to have “extra time” with our daughter and dogs
  • Delight to not have to drive in our regular 1-hour each way commute leaving the house around 7:30am and getting home after 6:30pm

I was looking all over for silver linings but not understanding how people are so good at finding new ways to manage their time: organizing their pantries, working out at home, trying new and healthy recipes, painting new masterpieces, etc. It felt a little bit overwhelming that I wasn’t taking advantage of this quick shift in schedule. I also felt fatigued by all the articles telling us to be ok and don’t be an idiot about going out (like we were supposed to just know how to never leave home). I really just wanted permission to not be ok for a bit.

I read this HBS article about the feelings above of discomfort were actually considered grief. The article suggests that if we can just understand the stages of grief, and especially accept that they are not linear, then maybe we can figure out our own path forward. I saw it circulated among many of my friends and truthfully, found it to be the permission I needed to be ok with not being ok.

Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings.”

This YouTube video was also shared with me about How do you help a grieving friend? and I think you will all also enjoy it and a quote in the beginning, “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed, exactly as it is.” – Parker Palmer

So, the message I was looking for (to be ok with not being ok) has been found and now it’s up to me with how to move forward. I know that drinking cider and eating cake aren’t quite cutting it so I journaled this morning with ideas for me that would excite me about getting more exercise in my day (dancing, strength training, walking).

I admittedly haven’t started this new work out routine but by allowing myself some grace to grieve, I plan to get the momentum going. I hope you are also ok with wherever you are and slowly or surely adjusting what you need to keep your sanity.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

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