Now that the pandemic has entered a new phase, I am contemplating how to heal pandemic grief. I am asking myself many questions: What will my life look like as things get back to “normal”? Can I really go back to the way things were? What have I learned from this loss that I can carry forward in my life to be of benefit to myself and others?
As grief educator Ken Doka has said, “Whenever we experience a loss…it helps to recognize that loss and grief have changed us. We cannot go back to the way we were before. Our situations are different. We are different as well.”
Instead of pondering what is widely called the “new normal”, perhaps it is more beneficial to contemplate the “new me.” Indeed, who am I now?
I have been learning so much about myself during this pandemic, spending more time with myself without my usual distractions. On the one hand, I see my neuroses more clearly, and I don’t always like what I see. On the flip side, I have learned to be more patient and compassionate with myself, neuroses and all.
I am also seeing more clearly what is important to me now, and what I want to bring forward into my life, both for myself and others, as I move into the post-pandemic world. As Zen teacher Vanessa Zuisei Goddard says:
What we need is the willingness to look honestly at our wants and our choices and ask ourselves, does this make sense—not just for me, not just for now, but for everyone and for our future?” What sort of “normal” do we want to return to when the worst of the pandemic is behind us? Stepping forward from this point, what kind of world will we co-create?”
At the beginning of the pandemic, I made all kinds of grand plans: to read those 1000 page dharma books, meditate for three hours a day, and on and on. After berating myself for a while for not living up to those expectations, I’ve decided to let myself be. Spending time with my cat purring in my lap, looking at the birds in my backyard, pulling weeds in my garden…This is all practice too, and has been so freeing. Intentionally sitting and letting myself be bathed in all of my senses is the best meditation practice of all.
Practices for healing pandemic grief:
There are times when I am afraid that I will drown in profound grief and anxiety, hopelessness and despair. I’ve also found ways out of these intense emotional states that have lifted me up me when I am afraid of drowning in them. Here are some practices you can use:
- Connect with gratitude. If you are finding this difficult because of your grief and despair, at the end of the day, write down five things you are grateful for that happened that day. The little things count most, like hearing a beautiful birdsong, seeing a plant bloom, smelling a delicious meal before tasting it.
- Connect with your senses. Intentionally tune in to all of your senses – touch, sight, smell, sound, taste, with whatever you are doing.
- Contemplate interconnectedness. We often feel that we are a single identity, alone in the world. The truth is that we and everything around us is interconnected.
- Express your appreciation. We often take the people in our lives — including ourselves — for granted. Letting them know you appreciate them opens our hearts to ourselves and to them. After all, we are all truly interconnected.
- Memorialize your self-discoveries and new intentions. Use this time to notice how this time has changed you. Journal, paint or draw about who you are now, and the world you want to create for yourself and others going forward.
© 2020. Beth S. Patterson. All rights reserved.