2020 is coming to a close and many can’t wait for a new year to start. Nobody could imagine spending an entire year physically and mentally fighting a pandemic, absorbing images of continued violence against black and brown bodies, and social distancing. However, if you’re reading this, you made it through; even if only by a thread. That’s something worth declaring! Yes, you are here- you made it.
It’s so important to reflect and acknowledge the ways you may have experienced grief this year. Why? It's a way to gain clarity, gain a deeper understanding of yourself, and create space for healing. Although we have no idea what 2021 has in store for us, we can prepare our mind, body, and spirit to navigate things the best we can.
Here are common types of grief you might have felt this year and tools to help support your healing process while navigating tough feelings:
What is Grief?
When you hear the word “grief” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a loved one passing away or the ending of a relationship. Both are valid forms of grief, and there are so many more types. Grief can feel like a part of you is dying––the pain is often unbearable.
You should know grief is a natural response to loss and something everyone will feel at some point in their life. What’s important is how you manage and grow through it.
It is essential to know that ignoring grief won’t make it go away; in fact, it can make things worse. Unresolved grief can trigger depression, anxiety, or emotional exhaustion.
Stages of Grief
Everyone experiences grief differently, which is why it’s not always easy to identify. For example, one individual may find it hard to get out of bed, while another may fill up their schedule to avoid being alone and facing their emotions. You may also find your grief evolves and changes from day to day.
There are various stages of grief, but five are most commonly known include:
Denial: You may say things like “This isn’t real, it’s not happening” and be in a state of shock.
Anger: It isn’t uncommon to feel angry when you begin processing a loss. You might take that out on yourself, other people, or the systems at large.
Bargaining: This is why you may hear yourself saying “if only I had” or “what if I did this instead”.
Depression: Common signs of depression are losing interest in hobbies, eating too much or too little, anxiety, irritability, and suicidal thoughts.
Acceptance: Although it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t feel anymore pain, you have accepted the loss and are ready to gradually move on in some ways.
Grief isn’t a linear process, so you won't necessarily go through each stage in chronological order. You could also be stuck in one phase for longer than you’d like before you move onto another.
Types of Grief
Losing a Loved One
BIPOC ( Black Indengenous People of color) continue to get infected and die from COVID-19 at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population.
If someone you know has died of COVID-19 or for any other reason this year, it’s likely you’re experiencing grief. The state of the world may even amplify that grief and make you feel worse than you already do.
Losing a Source of Income
During the pandemic, there have been three categories of workers; those who can work from home, essential workers, and people who lost their job. In November, the number of long-term unemployed people reached 3.9 million.
If you’ve been one of the unfortunate people to lose their source of income or your salary has been reduced, it likely affected both your financial stability and mental health. Even if you didn’t lose your source of income, working from home can cause grief as well. Example, decreasing social interaction at work while being confined to zoom meetings for hours can impact your general wellnes.
Many of us had major plans for 2020 from traveling to a new place to celebratory gatherings with loved ones. The pandemic has shattered many of those dreams and left us with feelings of disappointment. Seeing as a pandemic isn’t something you can control, perhaps you’re feeling hopeless and unsure of what to do next.
You have every right to feel this way; grieve the dreams you weren’t able to bring to life this year.
You may also be grieving the loss of normalcy, as nothing looks and feels the same anymore.
Have you ever found yourself watching the news and crying as they disclose the death toll? Maybe police shootings or the death of Kobe Bryant had you overwhelmed emotionally. You are not strange for feeling this way, neither are you exaggerating or being over the top. Collective grief and shared pain is a real thing people experience, especially during global crises like a pandemic. If you are a highly sensitive person or empath these feelings can be confusing and intense at times.
You aren’t crazy for feeling grief about things that haven’t happened to you directly––you’re human.
Tools for working with Grief
You’ve likely been able to identify with some form of grief listed above, so now what? Everyone heals differently, but there are some common ways to support feelings of grief and depression.
Show yourself compassion
When you’re grieving, one of the best things you can show yourself is compassion. Grief isn’t easy to move through, and oftentimes, you can feel stuck. How do you show yourself compassion? Avoid blaming yourself for the circumstances you’re in and negative self-talk.
An example of not being compassionate toward yourself would be losing your job and blaming yourself for being let go. An example of compassion, on the other hand, would be reminding yourself of all that you have been able to accomplishment, zoom out and reflect on your current strengths.
Talk to yourself with love and don’t put pressure on yourself to do more than you can in the moment.
Engage in mindfulness practices
Mindfulness is a powerful tool you can use to heal yourself, especially while grieving. Understanding where you are emotionally and the feelings you’re experiencing can help you better take care of yourself.
Research also shows mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, sleep challenges, and improve overall mental health. The benefits don’t end there, meditation can lessen your inflammatory response when you’re exposed to stress.
For those who don’t know what mindfulness is, it’s a type of meditation that teaches you how to be present and self-aware in the moment. You focus on what you’re sensing and feeling without judging yourself for it. During mindfulness meditation, you can use breathing techniques or guided imagery to help you through the process.
Try doing this a few minutes a day, and see how it helps ease any emotional turmoil, uneasiness, and stress you’re experiencing. There are many free apps available to support this process.
Tap into your creative side
Creativity can be a saving grace for feelings of sadness and depression. It’s an effective outlet for many, and you don't have to be extraordinarily talented to use it.
If you didn’t know, art therapy is a real thing and used to foster healing and well-being. A 2018 study on the effectiveness of art therapy revealed adults who participated experienced a reduction in trauma and depression symptoms.
On that note, consider painting, writing, making jewelry, writing a book, pottery, or anything else that helps you express yourself creatively. What does your inner child find joy in doing?
Create a healing playlist
Music is another well-known healer when you’re going through difficult times. Like art, music can help reduce feelings of pain, stress, anxiety and depression. Think about music that makes you feel most at ease, be it upbeat or slower melodies.
Create a playlist and listen to it when you’re feeling low. Even having it playing in the background while you work or sleep can be helpful. This is a great way to activate your Root and Sacral chakra energy! Twerk it out, body roll, 2 step with it or let it flow...
Crystals contain healing energies that can aid your grieving process and facilitate healing. After all, many have been infused in the earth for hundreds if not thousands of years.
How do you use them? You can hold them during meditation, add them to your altar, or carry them throughout your day. You can also lay them on your body if you want to heal a chakra (energy points in your body) that feels imbalanced or out of place.
Check out soulfulvibesco.com for online purchase and information on crystals.
Try a range of herbs
Natural herbs are medicinal in nature, each serves a different purpose. Some can help ease pain and stress as well as any other feelings associated with your grief. Herbs that might naturally aid feelings of depression include;
Check out Creolesecretaromatherapy.com for therapeutic grade aromatherapy blends.
Spend time in nature
When you’re feeling down, you may want to lie in bed all day. While that helps sometimes, if you drag yourself outside, you may find you feel much better. That’s because nature has magic of its own and can boost your mood. Studies show nature walks can lower activity in your prefrontal cortex––the part of your brain responsible for repetitive thoughts that fixate on negative emotions.
Check out Outdoorjournaltour.com for great resources on hiking and trails!
This year has filled our hearts with moments of grief as well as moments of gratitude. Pause, and honor wherever you are on your personal journey at this time.
As we round up 2020, take some time to prepare for the new year by addressing any grief you’ve experienced. Never forget you deserve a life full of healing, fulfillment, and peace.
May this be an invitation:
Design the life you wish to experience.
Vibrant living from your authentic core!