The Emotional Complications of COVID19

I'm having a lot of people ask me/tell me "My depression/my anxiety is back, Catherine! What do I do?" And at first, I offered solutions for those things.

However, upon further examination, it seems that they're actually engaged in the grieving process.

At first I was hearing that they were "depressed" or "anxious" about different things: working from home and different (or no) boundaries, not being able to see friends, the inability to CHOOSE to leave the house (even if they're introverts who usually don't), the loss of normal life, and more. In the beginning, I thought these things were all different, but then I realized they all have something in common: LOSS. The loss of the ability to choose, the loss of normal life, the loss of boundaries, the loss of social relationships, and more. We are all experiencing multiple losses. And so I reached a conclusion... GRIEF.

We are experiencing grief in multiple forms.

Even more, those of us who have other things we may or may not have grieved are experiencing compound grief, and maybe even some triggering of old grief. It's a lot!

If we consider the process of grief (which by the way isn't linear) we realize just how many emotions are involved. We've all heard of the "phases of grief" that we move in and out of- denial, bargaining, anger, acceptance, and a further recently realized: making meaning. SO. MANY. EMOTIONS.

I also realized that we are not taking into account all of these emotions. We think we should be able to seamlessly move from outdoors to indoors, to do as we're told, to cope. What we are seeing is defenses in motion: some people deny and minimize, some people panic, some people go numb inside and go through the motions, some people party, drink, and use substances. We're all trying to cope with the grief and loss.

I'm hearing things like:

"I'm working from home"- No, you're surviving a pandemic from home. This wasn't a choice.

"I thought I would LIKE working from home but I can't get any space!" - Yes, you're feeling the loss of boundaries. There's no line of demarcation, and possibly no respect from those around you that you need space or room to work and focus.

"I'm an introvert but I'm still struggling."- Yes, but your CHOICE was removed. That and even introverts do need some social time.

"I'm still trying to have a routine but I'm struggling." - Yes, because normal life is not happening right now.

"I can't figure out why I'm so ANXIOUS"- You're one step away from fight or flight, or perhaps IN fight or flight, because there IS danger.  A loss of the sense of safety. (See previous blog for more information on this.)

We are also grieving losses. Actual deaths. Whether ambiguous and in the form of "we are losing so many people," professional "I lost a patient. I couldn't save them." or more personal "I lost a loved one to COVID"."


And we have no space to do it. So- we're seeing other behaviors like picking fights, yelling at eachother, impatience with bosses, children, family; crying spells at night, sleeplessness, and more. If we put these into the context of grieving, suddenly we understand. I've noticed that when someone dies, others are quite patient with those who have lost.

So, we need to realize and remember that we are grieving. We are experiencing multiple losses and so many feelings all at once. It can be overwhelming.

We need to be patient with ourselves and with those around us. And when we aren't, we need to apologize and repair.

This is an unusual time for so many reasons but with respect to grief, rarely is this a community activity.

We really are in this together.