Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How to Deal with Grief and Loss of All Kinds During COVID-19

September 21st, 2020 · how to deal with grief and loss

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re all struggling with how to deal with grief and loss during this COVID-19 period.

I’ve chosen the subject of grief for this second post in my series on “The Emotions of the Pandemic” because grief is such a pervasive and powerful emotion during this pandemic lockdown. We may well not be aware of all the ways in which it is emerging for us in this extraordinary time.

Perhaps we’re aware of the very difficult circumstances that anyone who has lost a loved one has faced during the COVID-19 period. The hardships have been notorious and very well-publicized, including families being unable to visit dying relatives in the hospital, harsh limitations on attendance at funerals, and a range of other very trying ordeals.

Other manifestations of grief may be less obvious. We experience them without even labeling them as grief, yet we may experience them in ways akin to depression.

The Many Forms of COVID Grief and Loss

In a recent article in the Amplify section of the Globe and Mail, Lara Pingue writes about her experiences with her son’s first day of school this year as a senior kindergartner. She notes how getting him ready with mask and hand sanitizer, “after the longest and least rejuvenating March break in history” left her with a keen sense of sadness. She came to realize that this sadness was a sense of grief, stemming from her lost sense of normalcy as she thinks about her son, going to SK in a mask, “who knows that he can’t hug his teacher or high-five his best friend”, and as she thinks about all the normal experiences of work, home and social life that we’ve all had to leave behind in this pandemic period.

As we noted above, Pingue recognizes that she had previously thought of grief in terms of catastrophic loss: “the sharp pang of a lost mother or father, a job, a home”. But she recognized in her experience that the loss of the small things that make life ordinary and secure can result in very substantial experiences of grief.

Pingue quotes the famous thanatologist and grief expert, David Kessler, writing in the Havard Business Review:

We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving.

Kessler, David, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”, Harvard Business Review

Working Hard to Avoid Grief May Not Help

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are grieving in this pandemic period, in a multitude of small ways. We may also find that we are trying very hard to avoid acknowledgment of our grief as we make our way through so-called ordinary life in the pandemic. We’re experiencing a major life transition, with all the emotional fallout that entails

It’s natural to want things to be normal, to damn well insist on them being normal, even when they clearly aren’t. That’s one way in which we try to cope, and among other things, try to reduce our anxiety. Yet the plain fact of the matter is that grief has a way of being present to us, even when we seek to ignore it, and perhaps berate ourselves for feeling it, because we “haven’t had a catastrophic loss.”

Finding Meaning Amidst Grief and Loss

Kessler emphasizes the importance of finding meaning in our grief and loss, as a way of coping with it. In this, he is very much on the same page as C.G. Jung, who continually emphasized the need to find meaning in life, and especially to find it in life’s dark and hard experiences.

What would it mean for us to find meaning in our experiences of grief and loss during this pandemic? First of all, we would have to be willing to look at those experiences, and genuinely acknowledge our sense of loss, and sorrow, much as Lara Pingue did with her experiences. However, we should be aware that our experiences of loss may well be very different from hers. Someone I know finds it really distressing that the whole experience in grocery stores has become so slow and joyless. I personally can feel a huge sense of loss in the way one day blends into another. How do you experience the pandemic?

Working with a depth psychotherapist to process feelings of grief and loss over the pandemic, or any experiences of grief and loss can be of great value. The process can lead us on the path of finding meaning in our loss.

With very best wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

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How to Cope with Anger During COVID-19

September 14th, 2020 · how to cope with anger

This post on “how to cope with anger” is the first post in my new series on “The Emotions of the Pandemic”.

As we all know, the COVID-19 experience is stirring up strong, complex feelings. How do we cope with them? What do they mean? In this series, I plan to look at anger, fear, despair and other emotions to attempt to answer these questions for each emotion—and what they respectively mean for our lives at this point in our journey.

Today’s post deals with anger, and the ways in which we’re experiencing it during the COVID lockdown period. Has anger been a part of your experience during the lockdown? It certainly has been for very many people. It’s important for our health and our growth as human beings that we understand as much as we can about what’s going on with this feeling.

Our Anger Now

Bernice (Not her real name) is angry. “My business is really struggling. We’re way down from last year at this time, because of social distancing, and because my business depends on bringing groups of people together. I’m fed up with all the stores and my favourite restaurants being closed. We didn’t really have much of a summer, because of travel restrictions, and everything being shut down while we were away. Now the kids are going back to school, and I really don’t know what to expect. Is it safe? Who knows? And if one more person tells me that this is ‘the new normal’—I don’t know what I’ll do!”

Many of us can relate to the kinds of things that Bernice, and the many people like her, are saying. For many of us this is a very anxious, painful, frustrating time, and whether we want to admit it or not—we’re pretty angry about it. What can we do about it?

Owning Our Anger

Before we can do anything else to respond to our anger, we have to acknowledge that we have it. A lot of people don’t acknowledge anger, and that failure can have some very negative impacts. Anger which we deny or refuse to acknowledge can come out sideways, leading to passive-aggressive responses to other people. Also. anger can get displaced, so that our anger ends up getting dumped on those who don’t deserve it–a loved one, an innocent party, or even a family pet. Or, unresolved anger can end up coming out in our lives as anxiety.

To feel better about our lives and to get more of the good things we want from our lives will mean that, at some point, we have to come to terms with our anger. Even to move towards becoming the unique individuals that we have the potential to be (to individuate as Jungians say) will require us to acknowledge our anger and to come to terms with, and somehow incorporate its energy.

The Dynamic Side of Our Anger

As anger researcher Prof. Ryan Martin of U. Wisconsin-Green Bay reminds us, anger is

the emotion we feel when we are treated unfairly or our goals are blocked…. Anger can be helpful in that it energizes us to confront injustice or solve problems.

That is, provided we find ways to use that anger that are healthy and constructive. Seeking to find such ways to be creative and life-giving with our anger is particularly important for all of us who are now seeking out how to cope with anger in the midst of these pandemic times

It can be of genuine benefit to both explore the roots of your anger, and discover creative ways to express its energy through working with a supportive depth psychotherapist. What comes out through working on your anger may be of great importance for the whole course of your life.

With every good wish for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

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