Letter from Sue #2: What is this discomfort I am feeling?

I am hearing from a number of my clients, friends, family and colleagues about a cluster of feelings that we may all be manifesting in different ways. 

There is a real sense of loss at this time – loss of our own movement, loss for the world as we knew it, loss for the ease of seeing others and the continuation of our ordinary lives. The loss of lives, the loss of jobs, the loss within economies, the loss of control, the loss of safety in so many ways.

On top of that there seems to be a real sense of sadness and even at times tearfulness – so much is happening around us, not only in our own Society but in the world at large. We are bombarded time after time on the TV and social media about the situation Coronavirus has brought to our world! The sadness of different scenarios playing out in front of us.

There is a real sense of doom and gloom and we find ourselves at times swept up into this as well ! This is where all the “what if’s” come into play. We are anxious and fearful and this is not just an individual feeling but a community and global feeling at this point in time. Never in our lifetime have we all been drawn so close to each other in our shared emotions.

Psychologists and Social Researchers are suggesting that what we are all going through at present is GRIEF!

Grief as we know is something that we all go through at times in our lives. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was one of the first people to really delve into grief and to talk about it and in some ways to normalize it.  Grief is not a linear process but one where we go in and out of the different stages until eventually we come to an acceptance of the situation. That in itself makes it sound as if once we have done that we will no longer experience grief for a situation, or loss, or bereavement.  This is not true, as we can be triggered back into the feelings, but we do begin to feel as if we can deal with and process those feelings.

In this process of grief we deal with denial where we feel as if this is all a bad dream, it feels surreal, and actually this will all just go back to what it was before, soon, won’t it?? We are angry at ourselves, at those around us, at the situation that has caused this grief, at the institutions etc. We often try to bargain our way out of it all ..”if we just stay in lockdown for the 5 weeks, all will be fine, won’t it?” And then of course the overwhelming sadness that goes with the loss.

A great deal of what we are currently feeling is known as “anticipatory grief”. This brings a great deal of anxiety and worry with it. We think of what may well happen, of what the endpoint is going to be, of how it could affect us ……

David Kessler who is one of the world’s foremost experts on grief has added a sixth stage to Elisabeth’s stages and that is the “making of meaning”.  This is helpful to us as we then begin to try and make sense of all this and look for the positives, and the good and helpful changes that can be!  We already see a number of them – connectivity, appreciation of the small things, the beauty of our planet as it begins to heal itself.

And so, what do we do with this grief we are going through?

First and foremost just being able to recognize and name for ourselves that this is what we are going through, that this is grief, is incredibly powerful and helpful for us.

We need to allow ourselves to feel the emotions as they come. They will not swamp us, but it is important to let them out.

We need to show compassion for ourselves and for others. We are all going through different emotions and trying to make sense of it all.

Allowing ourselves to live in the present is very important. To name the things around us that are keeping us centred and safe, even if they are just the small things.

To pray and to be still in the Presence of God, draws us back to life and to possibilities, positives and meaning. As we live in the reality of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus, may we remember that we hope in a Lord who is with us, loves us and lives among us.

Sue Tinsley