THIS seems to be a summer of loss: jobs, money, stability, loved ones, and lives have been given over to the void. It’s not easy to wake up everyday not knowing what the world outside your windows would look like. The pandemic has changed the way we live, and in the moments that we’re trying to do more than just live and work, emotions usually bubble up to the surface.
A talk by Flourish Circle — a mental health space that offers 12-session programs called Flourish 101: Understanding Grief During the Quarantine — last week aimed to understand how a global pandemic can insinuate itself as grief, and how we can deal with it. The talk was hosted by mental health advocate and the reigning Miss LoveYourself International, Clea Torres.
Noel Cabigting, spiritual director, psychotherapist in pastoral practice, and co-founder and program developer of Flourish Circle, tried to trace where grief comes from. “I think it has to do with a loss of connection. It’s one way to capture it. You’re connected to something, and then something happens — and then you’re disconnected from that.”
“Another way to look at it is, there’s a story that you’re living out, and suddenly, that gets derailed. Something comes in, and that changes and derails the story. That could be two images of what grief could be,’ said Mr. Cabigting.
Meanwhile, Sheila Tan (who is a Flourish Circle co-founder, licensed Meta-Coach, Group and Team Coach, NLP Master Practitioner, and Neuro-semantics trainer) said, “We can feel grief for losing something that’s tangible. Sometimes we feel that for things that are intangible. Sometimes that’s even harder, because you can’t define and we can’t express what the loss has been. It could be an ideal, or a dream that we once had, that has become impossible. That’s also a loss that we have to grieve.”
To summarize these points about the causes and sources of grief, Ms. Torres said, “It’s an abrupt stop in something that you were doing, and living out. Grief is the emotion that comes with dealing with that end.” She adds, ““Grief is the emotion that comes from having to handle, or deal with loss — whatever kind.”
Responding to what people are grieving for these days, Mr. Cabigting said, “The emotion of powerlessness and anger, and the sense of things changing. Not just for myself, but collectively, in the world that we’re living in.” He also said that for the people at home, the grief may even be vicarious: just hearing about frontliners in hospitals and stores, or knowing other people who are experiencing either loss or uncertainty.
With grief comes the feeling that things will never change, and one will be powerless to stop it. “Sometimes, feeling powerless and helpless could be something that will be good to acknowledge. Sitting with powerlessness and helplessness could be a form of self-compassion. [These feelings] have the potential to tell you what you’re valuing,” Mr. Cabigting said.
Ms. Tan says that when these feelings come, it’s best to ask the question: “What is it that I feel powerless about?”
“In our minds, there are a lot of things, and they all seem to make sense. It’s like a jumble of a lot of things. [Being overwhelmed] is what could be making us feel powerless and helpless,” she said.
Ms. Tan makes a point that naming what bothers us instead of having it exist in a nebulous state in our minds could be the first step to dealing with it in a healthy manner. “Decluttering our thoughts and giving categories to them — [in something as] simple as that, we realize that [a thought] impacts me the most. We could have a choice in how to deal with it.
“Being at peace with emotions, and not being scared of them, is key.”
Mr. Cabigting calls emotions messengers, bearing in mind that they exist for us to make sense of the world (think of them as an extension of your senses). “Once we know the message, we could make an informed, or mindful decision on how to respond to them,” he said.
“There are things that we cannot change, and we need to just sit with that, and walk through that. There are things that we could hold, and think, or act on,” he noted.
A strange and all-too-sad consequence of a global pandemic, with an invisible virus that floats just outside your walls is that you, or someone you know, can be at risk. The speakers shared how best to deal not just with the grief, but the fear that the pandemic sows.
“This pandemic forces us to ask questions about our limitations. Questions about death can also be helpful, in that we can make decisions about how we want to live,” Mr. Cabigting said.
“Acknowledging death does not mean liking it. It means simply giving it permission to be the reality that you find yourself in.” — Joseph L. Garcia