Advice from grief counsellor Judy Strauss of Jewish Family Services:
We’ve heard it so many times. It’s a strange time. Historic.
But down on the ground, in the nitty-gritty, it’s not just history but life. Social isolation, business closings, loss of contact with loved ones and the absence of our usual activities are a recipe for grief.
“People feel that they have lost parts of themselves or a big chunk of their life, and they’re trying to adjust to having this new life,” said Judy Strauss, psychotherapist and grief counselor affiliated with Jewish Family Services. “It can resonate in some ways like grief.”
The following are five ways to cope with these losses that Strauss said have been beneficial for herself and for her grief group members:
Do what you enjoy most
“If it’s playing cards, play cards on the computer. Whatever activity, if you’re a baker or cook, do the activities that you like most. If you’ve lost a loved one before or during the pandemic, do those activities that you used to do with them. Be careful not to let your- self lose contact with your living loved ones.”
Strauss suggested we all find ways to laugh with one another, or on our own. “It’s important not to sit and dwell on the pandemic and what has been lost. Give yourself time to acknowledge feelings, and then make sure to transition to another activity.” Notice when you haven’t laughed in a while and try to sprinkle joy into your week.
Connect with your Neighbors
In addition to finding joy for yourself, reach out (safely) to neighbors, old or new alike. “You can reach out by taking baked goods to older adults and those who may be isolated, or placing a cheerful or hopeful message in your window.” Using hand hygiene, of course, write letters and cards to a neighbor you hadn’t met before the pandemic, communicating a message of kindness and support.
Get out and walk
Be safe and practice distancing, though. “You need to get a break from the screens and the news and breathe some fresh air,” Strauss said. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Try again tomorrow. If walking is difficult for you, change your room setting frequently throughout the day. We all need to make sure we are moving our bodies and breathing deeply.
Evolve again and again
People are resilient, even those who tend to have more down days than good days. Strauss said. “You’ll be surprised by your ability to cope and adapt to extreme situations. Keep busy and keep a routine.” We will evolve not only during the initial adjustment to social isolation and quarantine, but throughout the progression of the pandemic. “It’s import- ant to continue to try new things and move on if they don’t work,” Strauss said. There’s lots of advice out there as people learn what works for them and then generalize it to work for all people. Listen to yourself, find old and new interests, and keep supporting yourself in this evolution.