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  • Writer's pictureShannonSage Roberts

How Covid-19 is kind of like waiting on a hurricane…

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

This season has felt a lot like hurricane season for many of us who are living or have lived in coastal communities. That being said, I have noticed people respond very differently and judge those who are responding differently than themselves. For example, when there’s a hurricane coming, let’s say the news says basically “It’s going to be a category 4-5, if you stay you will die”. On come many different types of responses. I’m going to generalize here, which I don’t typically like to do so bear with me, and know I know I am missing certain groups of thought.

So you get the “fake news” individuals who decide that the news is over hyping with intent to scare the community and force people to watch more news. You get the panic stricken, “We’re hunkering down” crew that immediately fill their tubs with water, buy up all the pop tarts, batteries, and flashlights (even though they have about a dozen from the last hurricane season in their garage that they forgot about). Then you of course get the people who are out of that city as soon as they hear it’s going to be above a Cat 2 and work MIGHT get cancelled. With these individuals some are operating in fight or flight response and others plan to utilize this as vacation time. The last that comes to mind, are the “hurricane party people”. They stock up like they’re about to throw an epic party with every type of chip, all the best smelling candles, games, etc.

Growing up my mom was the best at this “hurricane party” mentality. She would get all the candles and snacks ready and we’d get ready for a sleepover in the living room. Because of this I never felt afraid of hurricanes in my childhood. I kind of looked forward to them. I now see that she was making the most of a scary situation and making sheltering in place something fun and she took advantage of the time her family was all forced to stay together.

The sleepovers in the living room were because the power almost always went out (even if it was just a tropical storm) and upstairs would be way too hot in Florida. If she was afraid, we never felt or sensed that. I think she fooled us and herself many times with this hurricane party mentality. She is a brave creative woman, let me tell you.

Now I’m sure there’s more generalized “types” of people in response to hurricanes, but I’m seeing a similar pattern with this virus and sheltering at home. I’m not going to dare try to categorize these individuals because I think we’re all a little sensitive at this time. But, what I’m noticing is there’s also SO much judgement. Let me just also clarify, that I get the judgement. I get the frustration with the other “types” of people who are responding differently than you want them to. I think there’s a very real reason people are responding so differently and I don’t believe it’s because some of them are just “idiots” or “anxiety ridden”.

I think it’s because we are all grieving differently. This morning, John Mark Comer (an author I follow on instagram) shared an article titled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” written by Scott Berinato, published in the Harvard Business Review. I definitely recommend this article because it goes on to explain that the discomfort all of us are feeling during this unprecedented time is grief. The focus is on anticipatory grief, which is something I get all too well…

The year 2020 was already a pretty rough one for myself and my family with the loss of my Uncle David to a completely, out of the blue, death by heart attack. He was fit, barely over 60, in some of the best shape of his life. I’ve been learning a lot about grief on a personal level for a few years now, if you’ve been following my story. I’ve lost too many good people in my life in a short few years. Being a therapist I’m familiar with the knowledge of grief, but just recently began to really be intentional about trying to grieve in a healthy way myself. The best therapists should be the best clients, theoretically. Ones that take their own advice especially. That is what I’ve been working toward, is becoming a better therapist by becoming a better me.

I told myself this time would be different. That I would use this as a motivation to get healthy and fit. I’ve been working out consistently and working with a nutritionist and then BAM Covid-19 hits and orange theory is closed and I can’t be selective and get whatever I want from the grocery store for meal prepping. Then I also overdid it on my shoulder and have been in a sling the past few days, but I’m getting sidetracked here.

I say all that just to acknowledge that life is looking much different, yet again, for me than I had thought it would. I know this is something that everyone can relate to in this season. Which is oddly comforting for me. Misery loves company right? I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but no one really does. I’m not where I was financially, but that’s pretty much true for most of the world right now, there are a lot of unknowns.

Back to grief. We all grieve differently. My family is really good at acknowledging that after we’ve unfortunately had some practice in the grief arena. I don’t really think anyone acts consistently the same each time they grieve either. Grief is kind of a funny thing, if you have a dark sense of humor or can remove the pain from it and just look at the weirdness externally.

That’s what’s happening now in our country, in particular, during this time. Everyone is grieving differently and at a different stage of grief. Many are being coined “selfish” or “idiots” for not carrying around a measuring tape to keep people at 6 feet apart at all times, but they may be in their own form of denial. The bargaining has been coming out in individuals different attempts to socially distance while maintaining some contact, i.e. visiting one or two friends a day or family that they don’t live with. I get it! Especially when I look at it from the grieving point of view. For me personally, it depends on the day and the news, and who I’m talking to or listening to.

My challenge for you is to YES WASH YOUR HANDS, and use wisdom, but also to allow yourself and others to grieve. Not every way someone grieves is healthy. We can make pretty risky decisions and life threatening ones out of a place of grief and put ourselves and others at risk. If there are people you’re worried about in your life and how they are grieving, approach them like they’re grieving. Don’t approach them like they’re being “idiots”. Grace and then truth.

My other challenge is that you let yourself grieve. This is tough, there’s a lot of emotions to feel, feel those emotions. Lean on your support system. Build your support system there’s a lot of creative digital ways to do that in this time of technology and we are so blessed that all of this was already designed for such a time as this. Give yourself grace, but also give yourself truth. If you treat this time like a vacation, you will camp out in denial for a longer period of time that can cause the grief cycle to lengthen. I can’t tell you how long treating this time like a vacation is healthy, and when it becomes unhealthy, only you know that. Take inventory, check with people you know that know you well enough to gage if what you’re doing is healthy or unhealthy.

You might need a day to sleep in without an alarm, ditch your routines, and let your body rest. Personally, I had to move our guest bedroom mattress into the living room, because I just could NOT sit on that uncomfortable couch anymore (as evidenced by the dog in the cozy corner in the featured image for this post). You might need a day without counting calories or going for a million walks. You might need a day without working from home at the same table as your spouse. COMMUNICATE. Give yourself grace, and then come in with the truth. We can’t stay in bed for the whole “stay at home” order. We want to come out of this time better than we entered in, not worse, or dare I say the same. We want to come out more loving, empathetic, and united. I believe this is already happening in so many ways. Understanding that everyone is grieving differently and not trying to self sabotage or spread this virus is a helpful step in grasping more empathy.

I believe the therapy world in particular is making many great advances, making therapy more accessible than it has every been. I'm a firm believer that everyone can benefit from therapy. Even myself! The best therapists have their own therapists. In this season of unprecedented times and this complicated grief you may be feeling you may need an unbiased individual to connect with.

Therapy is still happening. Therapy is essential! Allow yourself to grow through this season, and get any assistance you may need from a local therapist. Follow @placeofpeacewilm on instagram for more information on Telehealth and therapy options during this time.

Stay Safe & Stretch Your Empathy,

Shannon Roberts LMHC-A, LCAS-A

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