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COVID Grief & Guilt: How to Make it Through When You don’t Know what to do

Updated: May 21


By Aubree Brown


Originally published on ElephantJournal.com




Things are really rough right now, in an epic, global sense. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it feels a little like the world’s been turned upside down and shaken like a piggy bank. We’re all struggling mentally, physically, and financially, to varying degrees, and at this moment there is no definitive end in sight. We are in the eye of the storm.

With so many emotions and so much news to process daily, it’s no wonder so many of us are at a loss of what to do with ourselves. We are digesting this enormous trauma day-by-day, and doing our best to get through. But sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough.

When the world is suffering, how can us non-essential workers stand by the wayside-- even if doing so literally saves lives. This sense of inactivity, of impotence that we are all feeling is hard to sit with, and can turn into guilt and shame if we’re not careful. 

So what do we do when there’s nothing to be done?

1. Breathe


It’s a truism stitched across throw pillows the world over-- but it’s useful nonetheless. Sometimes the best we can do is just get through. Breathe in, breathe out. Feel your body. Be. That is enough.

2. Grieve

If tolerable, be with the feelings that weigh on you right now-- try not to push them away or shove them down (they only come out sideways then). Do what you can to process some of what you’re feeling some of the time. If it’s “???”, then say yes to that and be with it. If it’s “$%*&!”, then acknowledge it and let it be there. If it’s profound grief for the state of the world, do what you can to sit with that, too. Cry, scream, dance, sing, write, punch pillows. But most of all, be compassionate to yourself. You are doing your best. That’s enough. 

3. Give


If you have the time, ability, and resources to give something to the people and organizations fighting this pandemic, then do so. This is an excellent use of that restless energy so many of us are stuck with at this moment. We want to do something, anything to help-- anything but nothing. So give-- do what you can. That is enough.

4. Receive


Ask for help, and then receive it. I mean, really receive it. Let it in-- let others in. We need each other now more than ever. If you have a need, make it known. If you need support, ask for it. By doing so, you could even be helping folks around you find meaning and purpose in this maelstrom (see #3). And if there’s no one around, reach out to a tele-therapist or coach. Many have sliding scales and can offer the connection, support, and perspective you need. Ask for help, then receive it. That’s it. And that’s enough.

There is a lack of purpose, a sense of malaise that many of us have fallen into as a result of being stuck at home during this pandemic. It’s a lot, and in reality, aside from social distancing and wearing protective gear, there is little most of us can do at this time to change the big picture of this disaster. It's unfortunate, but it’s the truth. 

What we can do are little things. We can take care of ourselves and others. We can have grace, patience, and gratitude for what we do have. We can be with things as they are. And repeat.

So do what you can. Then rest. Be easy with yourself. We are all getting through this as best as we can. And that, for now, is more than enough.

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