Let’s face it! The world has changed – perhaps forever! I have a feeling that regardless of the eventual outcome, none of us will ever engage in daily activities in exactly the same way as we have before. COVID-19, that insidious perpetrator of a world-wide pandemic, has stolen our sense of the normal, the predictable, the comfortable. Even if our normal was filled with uncertainty from time to time, this Thief has altered the meaning of that word, “normal” forever!
How are we to make sense of all that is going on? How are we to move forward with our lives? What kinds of shifts are required of us to live with purpose? Allow me to share a few thoughts.
LOSS – Generally we tend to equate loss with death. That very well could be defined as the ultimate loss; however, loss is much more comprehensive than death. Loss may be defined as “Any absence of, deprivation of, removal of person/place/thing that is a part of one’s routine.“ In this definition, loss expands to include almost every disappointment, every setback, every tragedy/trauma, every alteration of perception every everything in life that takes a course other than the intended or hoped for. As a result of this pandemic, we have lost our sense of safety, security, and predictability. We have lost jobs and time and money and health. We have lost connections and physical closeness and mobility. We have lost opportunity and direction and a sense of autonomy. And . . . we have lost friends and loved ones. LOSS has become the operative word of our present and foreseeable future.
GRIEF – Grief may be defined as “What we feel or experience as a result of losing someone or something of value.“ Grief, therefore, is a REACTIVE process that affects us mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and relationally. When we Lose, we react in all five of the arenas mentioned above.
- Our thinking becomes muddled and murky.
- Our emotions overwhelm us to the point that we experience difficulty identifying them individually. They often emerge as feelings of anxiety, distress, anger, fear or depression.
- Our bodies revolt. We have difficulties sleeping, eating, or exercising. Energy wanes. Aches and pains abound. Panic becomes a constant companion.
- Our spirit often shrivels. We begin questioning everything we once held as unshakable.
- Our relationships suffer. We find ourselves unable or unwilling to connect in ways we once thought were meaningful. We experience difficulty in reaching out to others. Or we cling dearly to those close to us as if they might suddenly disappear.
If Loss is our Shared Event and Grief is our Shared Experience, what then are we to do in order to Deal Effectively with the Uncertainty left in its wake?
MOURN – Mourning may be defined as “What we DO with what we feel or experience. The process of externalizing through meaningful and purposeful activity.”Mourning then becomes a PROACTIVE process through which we work to create meaning out of the madness that has invaded our lives. Since we Grieve in all five arenas – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and relationally – we must take action in all five arenas as well.
- We must work to become more mindful of our thoughts, perceptions and judgments. We must begin challenging faulty perceptions, and toxic internal conversations that cause us to take negative pathways. We must instead renew our minds by filling them with thoughts and perceptions that are grounded in positive, optimistic reality.
- We must begin focusing on emotional health and awareness. We must embrace the variety of emotions we experience as being common and normal in the face of uncertainty and tragedy and then find healthy ways to express those emotions – talking, journaling, laughing, contemplation and yes, even crying.
- We must pay attention to our physical selves. We must maintain normal routines of exercising, sleeping, eating, gardening, creating or taking medications. Perhaps some of these routines will require temporary alteration; however, the importance of paying attention to our physical being is paramount.
- We must find our Spiritual Center in order to connect with that which helps create meaning and purpose. We must take the time to read, meditate, pray, contemplate and BE. We must welcome and invite thoughts, feelings and questions that challenge our Beliefs and then filter them through those “Meaning Making” principles in order to reconnect with our Purpose.
- We must make purposeful efforts to reflect on our relationship with ourselves first to ensure that we are practicing healthy self-care and then from a foundation of self-awareness, reach out to others. We must connect or re-connect with others so that we re-establish the commonality of existence that we all share.
Uncertainty is a constant – especially in times driven by a shared, global experience. Learning to live purposefully with and in the midst of that uncertainty becomes key to emerging stronger and more purposeful. I have every confidence that you – WE – can do this if we fail to lose heart and CHOOSE instead, to Create Meaning!
Mark E. Hundley