May 29, 2020
You may be experiencing a heightened sense of emotional reactivity in response to the pandemic, possibly in the form of irritability, frustration, or even hopelessness. Research indicates a very high percentage of Americans are experiencing depression, many of them for the first time. Or conversely, you may be experiencing a feeling of numbness or distance from your feelings.
We believe one of the driving factors behind this is grief: that everyone is grieving something right now, whether they know it or not. It might be the loss of normalcy, a job, a loved one, or even something as seemingly “insignificant” as summer plans. Whatever it may be about, grief is under the surface for many people at this time.
We think of grieving as a process of letting go when something is lost. It's a very difficult emotion for many people, and most personalities have a way of avoiding this challenging feeling. For some, the feeling might be so unfamiliar that it is interpreted as weakness, which makes them mad. The grief morphs into anger, which allows them to feel more in control. For others, throwing themselves into work makes it possible to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
It’s natural to feel sadness about what has been lost, but there are many reasons people avoid sad feelings (and grief is the saddest of the sad feelings). Sometimes people fear they’ll be consumed with sadness, like falling down a well they can’t get out of. As a society, we don’t want to talk about sadness – it feels vulnerable and threatening. As individuals, we’ve been socialized to avoid “negative” feelings and we’ve learned to distract or “cheerlead” ourselves out of it to avoid making others feel uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing: grief is the gateway to the heart center, and you need contact with your heart center to not just feel all your feelings, but also to connect with your imagination and creativity. If you’re not willing to feel all of your feelings (the most difficult of which is grief), your emotional range will be constricted. Your grief, if left unprocessed or ignored, might also “leak out” and morph into other forms such as anger, resentment, or anxiety.
The most important aspect of grief is recognizing it, processing it, and spending time in the practice of letting go, sometimes by slow degrees and always with self-compassion. As we let go and begin to move forward, something new becomes available.
So we encourage you to ask yourself, with gentle self-compassion, "What have I lost that I may be grieving?" Spend some time reflecting on this question and how it might be playing a role in your life as you go into the weekend.