By Vanetta Hill
Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist
How are you? No really, how are you doing? The pandemic has many feeling isolated, disconnected, and lonely. Many have even confessed that it feels like one long day or dream. The days all run together. Is this you? So tell me, really, how are you? Have you lost your financial stability? Has your job situation changed? Are you employed, underemployed, furloughed, or unemployed? Have you loss the ability to spend quality time with family, friends, loved ones, and co-workers? Has a loved one died as a result of COVID-19 or another illness? Have you lost your home to foreclosure or financial instability? Are you feeling a loss of connection, community, cohesion, or loss of relationship, independence, or identity? Whatever the loss, all of them can have a significant impact on us mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally, and even with our faith. But it’s important to give yourself time to grieve what you’ve lost.
As a certified Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist, I’ve learned there are over 40 different grieving events. For example, marital separation, imprisonment, dismissal from work, retirement, sexual difficulties, gain a new family member, change in financial state, change to different line of work, change in frequency of arguments, foreclosure of mortgage or loan, begin or end of school, revision of personal habits, and the list continues.
But what is grief? Here are two definitions for you to consider.
First, grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.
“Therefore, the feelings you are having are also normal and natural for you. The problem is that we have been socialized to believe that these feelings are abnormal and unnatural.” – The Grief Recovery Institute.
Secondly, grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Grief is personal and unique to you. Case in point, when we were mandated to shelter in place, I felt a sense of relief that I would not be subjected to exposure of COVID-19 while working in the office. These feelings were positive and a sense of relief, although it was associated with a pandemic and uncertainty. At the same time, I also realized I would no longer have opportunities to engage with staff and the congregation at-large, a community I call family, nor would I continue in my weekly routine. These conflicting feelings, relief, and despair are totally normal in response to uncertainty and a pandemic.
Another example of conflicting feelings is what I experienced when my husband transitioned to be with the Lord a few years ago, I felt a sense of relief that he would no longer suffer from his illness. These feelings were also positive and a sense of relief, although it was associated with his death. But at the same time, I also realized I would no longer see, touch, travel, hug, or make memories with him. “These conflicting feelings, relief and pain, are also totally normal in response to death.”
IT’S EASIER FOR US TO NAVIGATE THROUGH GRIEF WHEN WE UNDERSTAND THAT GRIEF IS NOT ABOUT A BROKEN HEAD, BUT MORE A BROKEN HEART.
Today, I understand that these feelings are normal, but as a child, I was not taught it was okay to talk about or express my feelings of loss. Neither did I know there were over 40 different losses/grieving events. Instead, I saw unhealthy behavior modeled and as children often do, I began imitating what I saw. I cannot remember ever having a conversation about grief, nor was I taught how to identify what I was feeling as grief. This is why I am impassioned to help you!
You see, I grieved alone when my maternal grandmother transitioned at the age of 10—feeling bad and isolated; while the adults in my family grieved together inside, I suppressed my emotions and played outside alone. Today, as an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist, I understand grieving and how to deal with the confused and frustrated feelings that lead to emotional isolation.
Another example is when my poodle, Fi Fi, died at the age of 12. We replaced the loss with another dog, Niki. Replacing the dog reinforced unhealthy behavior. It taught me to suppress my grief and replace anything I’ve lost. One last example is when I experienced my first heartbreak at the age of 17, I indulged in unhealthy behaviors known as Short-Term Energy-Relieving Behaviors or “STERBS” as I drank to mask the pain of heartbreak.
“We are taught how to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them. – Grief Recovery Method.”
There are constructive ways to deal with grief and we can do this together. The short video included with this article will provide a few options…enjoy!
In addition to being a specialist in the Grief Recovery Method, Vanetta Hill is a member of the Christ Church Pastoral Care Team.