Taking Care of Your Mental Health During a Pandemic, How Can We Cope With Grief?

Grief Pandemic BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy wuwm.com

Let’s take time out of our busy schedules to get real and personal for a minute. 

It has been the most challenging year of the decade. The year 2020 will go down in history as the year that changed our lives and took away people that should still be here with us. 

We live each day in paranoia, daily aiming to survive, dodging everything to stay healthy, and balancing this with our pre-pandemic anxieties to remain sane. 

It’s so novel and unnatural for us to be experiencing this that it is imperative to be connected with our everyday thoughts and make sure we are noticing each negative pressure, and plan out how to continue after this pandemic is over. 

Looking forward to what’s inevitably to come, I imagine this being a cause of so many traumas in the long run; there is a great deal of pain and anxiety we are being forced to deal with, and that has yet to be recognized or triggered in the years to come. 

But as a society and as individuals, know this: we will recover. We will get through this.

Even though these times demand us to be alone physically, you are not alone in spirit. With technology, we have resources openly available to help us with whatever it is we are dealing with — whether it’s a death of a loss, one indirectly or directly due to COVID-19, or the trauma that is coming with this anxiety and depression that a lot of us are experiencing. It is so much to process.

Unfortunately, during this devastating episode, it is harder to find a rehab or mental health center accepting new clients, which would be one of the first solutions to consider as a point to take action or seek help. 

It is essential to know the hard facts of what is happening in these industries to prepare for what’s to come in the post-pandemic years.

The COVID-19 crisis has left fewer resources for those dealing with these types of issues that are being heightened during this time. Whether it’s because of cutting back staff members, cutting out shared spaces, or not being able to accept clients due to unsafe measures — it is entirely and overall heartbreaking. 

According to the Kaiser Health News, the pandemic has “left people who have another potentially deadly disease — addiction — with fewer opportunities for treatment, while threatening to reverse their recovery gains.” And that’s the thing about drug use – sometimes those “fewer opportunities” means a struggling addict’s desperate last high that becomes a fatal overdose. 

Early in the pandemic (and note that we are already eight months in), Detroit Free Press stated, “with the coronavirus pandemic raging and the environment ripe for relapse, wait times for inpatient rehab spots have grown to days and, in some cases, weeks — delays that can be deadly for addicts, especially those who use heroin,” which is a fact that is causing more unprecedented deaths indirectly resulting from COVID-19. 

What happens when this happens? We are left to deal with the loss of a loved one. Because therapy is also hard to schedule in and potentially impersonal through phone calls or virtual meetings, the option we have left is to research and cope with grief as much as possible by ourselves for the time being. 

And I must say the “time being” spent alone is so crucial to pay attention to. 

How can you deal with your grief alone on top of dealing with a pandemic? 

I contacted the mental health counseling intern and clinical therapist Danet Martinez for advice and to ultimately help me find ways to start this research and personal healing process. 

Martinez sent in multiple resources describing the importance of identifying the stage and the state of grief one is experiencing.

A source is a guide by Therapist Aid titled Grief Psychoeducationthat introduces you to the process of grief, the models of suffering, and diagnosis of both grief and bereavement. 

As I read through the points, it became clear that I have been experiencing these steps without knowing the data collection or correct terms for it — that in itself brought me comfort. It made me acknowledge that this is and will always be a common notion that people, unfortunately, have to experience, and although I have a heavy heart right now, reading this process in words brought light to my healing process. It also highlights something that I keep repeating to myself: “there’s no right way to grieve.” There’s no timeline or formula.

Martinez sent another important resource from VITAS Healthcare, where it resonates with the previous, stating that “grieving during non-crisis times is a highly individual experience.” There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no ‘normal’ timetable for grieving. Healing happens gradually and cannot be hurried. 

In times of crisis, however, key factors and reactions can intensify your grief and hinder your ability to heal and recover from it.” Here the importance is to understand that this crisis amplifies emotions and can potentially detour the process, which is crucial to acknowledge.

All of this information about coping with the grief of losing a loved one is not only for those currently experiencing it. It is also an introduction to what could potentially have to be dealt with if we don’t take care of ourselves and our family in the months to come. Life is fragile, and the amount of deaths due to COVID-19 continues to rise.

If you are one of the fortunate people that have not experienced any COVID-19 direct or indirect related deaths, please don’t take it lightly. Have empathy for those dealing with the feeling of a premature death caused by something that was not even thought of at the beginning of 2019.  

How is this pandemic even real? And if you are currently going through this type of heartbreak, please know that you are not alone. Know that you will get through it and find a light in what now seems to be an endless abyss. Time is said to heal; trust in impermanence.