It’s hard to know how to navigate our feelings in the midst of such immense change. I feel 2020 has been a hard year for us all. Not knowing how to navigate our own feelings let alone a trip to the market can have a snowball effect if we are not taking care of ourselves and our mental health.
I have heard so many people saying out loud, making facebook posts, sharing a simple internet meme all about how 2020 is the worst year. ...but is it?
“Can it get any worse?!” … Honestly, yes it can and asking that question only brings it on. Even if you do not believe in manifestation think about what happens if you tell a teenager they can’t do something? They automatically will want to do whatever it is you told them not to do. If you tell someone don’t think about a pink elephant, in your mind you picture that pink elephant.
I noticed so many people I know saying how bad 2020 has been and then noticed how I instantly felt after hearing or reading those words. I am not saying it is or it isn't, I am not saying how you or anyone else should feel. Between the pandemic worldwide, the political divide in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement making change we so rightly need ... I feel many of us feel deeply. We feel the pain, confusion, guilt, and even anger. Then I reflected on these feelings. I had an event in my life that really open my eyes to the core emotion of it all. Grief.
My grandmother passed October 13th and let me tell you this hit very hard for me. This year has been filled with loss. However it was not just a general sad feeling there was an array of all sorts of different feelings (anger, guilt, confusion) and then there was grief.
My grandmother had gone into hospice a few days prior. Being over 10 hours away from her felt much, much farther. My husband and I had just come back from being in my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania in which we were there for over a month awaiting the birth of my nephew. We had not planned to stay that long but my sister was about two weeks past her due date. I wanted to be there for her so we stayed longer than expected.
I was so torn on what we should do travel wise. “Should him and I get in our car and travel back?” I thought to myself. I asked my family what I should do. Not knowing what was to happen, being able to take off more time and be in Scranton for an un-given amount of time was causing such anxiety. It was hard to even think this way. We did not know how long my grandmother would have left to live.
I laid in bed with my heart beating out of my chest and tears slowly damping my pillow. I was afraid. I was terrified of losing someone so close to me. My parents moved in with my grandparents when I was about 2 ½ years old when my sister was born. I lived in the house till I was 18 when I moved out and got my own apartment. I remained very close and my grandmother was very much a part of my everyday life. When my husband and I decided to move out of state I knew it would be hard for those reasons - my family pretty much are all in Scranton. I was scared.
I realized how much my Grandmother was suffering, that the past couple of years she was struggling and in so much pain, that this year especially with limited access to seeing any family was so emotionally hard on her as well. That is when I felt this peace. I felt the strength I needed within the grief. I was feeling these deep emotions because I truly cared. That is when I realized that grief is NOT a bad emotion we should dread or fear. Yes, underlying grief could be fear - the fear of change, or things being different, different from the comfortable or what we are used to. My whole life, 37 years, my grandmother was around for me. Many times I took her for granted, her birthday cards and her kisses, her jokes and her witty banter. Now she is gone and things are different, it is changed, and that is scary. We as humans view many if not all things we have in life this way. We do not realize things until they are gone and we grieve. We are grieve for 2020 because it is so very different.
“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope” - Elizabeth Gilbert
The last time I physically saw my grandmother was less than a month prior to all this. The assisted living facility she was at allowed me to visit with covid restrictions. Volunteers built these wonder plexiglass enclosures. I visited 4 times while being in my hometown. I brought my Ukulele and played her songs I have been learning. (I picked up playing the ukulele as a New Year’s New Me fun hobby) She was smiling ear to ear and loved seeing me play. That is how I wanted my goodbye to be. Remembering her smile. So I made the decision to not make the drive just yet. A few days later my aunt Janice called me so I can speak to my grandmother, even though she wasn't awake. My aunt played the guitar and I sang over speaker phone “Que Sera, Sera” (a favorite of my gransmother's and she loved when I sand it). After the song I talked to my grandmother telling her how much she is loved and how much she means to my whole family and to me.. She passed the following day.
My husband and I got in our car and made the trip for the funeral services. My husband and I have been taking precautions and doing all we can to "Stay Safe. The anxiety I was feeling was not just over this deep loss, but with the situation we were going into with covid restrictions and the fear of being around people in a mass service.
The long drive gave me time to reflect.
… to reflect on GRIEF. On 2020. On life.
We are all grieving because we miss the way things were and even took for granted the things we had… even the simplest things.
The moment we witness our emotions and the core root of them we can begin to heal to grow from them. Listing everything you lost in 2020, everything you hate about 2020 can leave one feeling even more negatively. You are grieving. Acknowledge that.
“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.” - Haruki Murakami
Grief is a process, not an event. Allow yourself time to grieve, don’t set a timeline for when you should ‘be over it.’ You don’t get over a loss; you learn how to live with it.
Grief can affect you physically. Even if you haven’t been physically active you may feel exhausted. You may experience headaches and have difficulty concentrating. Your appetite and sleeping patterns may also be affected. Here are a few suggestions to help you through these times:
Give yourself the love you need. Do not judge yourself or compare yourself to others.
Meditate. Clear your mind. Breathe. Know that thoughts often come up in meditation - it is ok - just keep coming back to breath. Try meditation apps to help guide you. I highly suggest Calm and Insight Timer. If you are seeking more a religious style of meditation I enjoy the Hallow app or if you would like a more interactive experience I recommend Headspace.
Take mental health breaks, especially from social media.
Make a daily list of things you do have that you are grateful for. Try to list at least 5 items which can be as simple as running water or taking a nice hot shower. Honestly, showers are so healing for me and I am so grateful for indoor plumbing!
Reflect on past memories that brought you joy and happiness. For example if you love to travel and this year your travel plans have been affected, reflect on past travel and adventures and the reason you are grateful for those experiences.
If you lost your job and now find yourself home, reflect and give gratitude for the stillness you have been gifted. I understand it is extremely difficult sometimes you are grieving.
If you are children at home be teach them practices of gratitude as well. Be a supprt for them. They are grieving as well and it is important we show them the love we all need during these this.
Identify who you can turn to for support – someone who will not judge you or try to solve your problems for you. Finding someone who is willing and able to listen to you can be a valuable part of your grief journey.
Reflect on grief, witness it, and give it gratitude. You cared so much about someone or something and now that it has changed you are affected. It is ok to feel sad, to feel angry… just do not live in that negative space. Feel that grief, then feel the love you had for your way of life that has changed, the love for someone who has past, the hardships you have been dealt with and overcome. Feel it all.
It is OK to grieve.
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger calling 911 and talking with police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for police officers trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free. Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741 Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message. National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages. National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.