As we have gone from days to weeks to months dealing with the Covid epidemic, I have become increasingly concerned that our unresolved issues around grief and loss are mounting. It occurs to me that it is not too early to address some of the issues that will plague us in the future by identifying them and intervening where we can in preparation for a postcovid world.
I like to call this intervention Griefspotting. What, you may ask, is Griefspotting? Doesn’t it have something to do with Trainspotting and Heroin tracks? Not in my world.
When I was a kid, one of the biggest entertainments on a warm summer evening was having my Dad throw us in his truck after dinner and announce that we were going Trainspotting. In fact, half our town would appear at the railroad station checking the time and putting pennies and straight pins on the tracks and then listening for the train and feeling the tracks rumble while screaming, “Here she comes.”
Picking up warm pennies flattened by the train was a kid’s delight. While the Trainspotters of my childhood carried friends, family, food and commercial goods, today the Griefspotters are waiting for some relief in the form of a vaccine, herd immunity, or just the all-clear that we can go back to normal, stop wearing the masks and again socialize in a natural way — hugging, kissing or merely shaking hands.
You can start your first Griefspotting intervention by naming your losses and then your feelings around those losses. Feelings might include; despair, guilt, and some deep unfinished business.
You may ask yourself: Why it is important to identify and list your losses and grievances? If you identify and write things down, then chances are you will reduce the need to keep going over them in your mind. We all have enough to cope with currently without having to harbor negative thoughts and feelings. Get yourself a notebook or just use your computer to identify your Griefspots and what triggers your grief blowouts.
Griefspotting Journaling can be done as a long narrative or just a few brief comments, a date can be important for later reference. After you have spotted the grief you can then move on to the next step in Griefspotting which is to utilize your coping strategies. When you list your grievances remember this journal is for you. Write the good bad and ugly and tuck it away. Below are some brief examples of Griefspotting shared by our Podcast guests.
My mother died from Covid. I am feeling very angry and depressed.
Roger Age 35 March 3, 2020
My son died 3 years ago from suicide. I am thinking about him all the time now that I am stuck at home.
Gary Age 41 April 15, 2020
My husband died of Cancer last month and I was not able to support him in his last few months as he was in a care center. I am sad and lonely and guilt ridden.
Jennifer age 65 September 9, 2020
My sister was killed in an automobile accident last month and I was unable to visit before she died or see her body one last time. I am sad beyond belief.
Fang age 19 September 30, 2020
Griefspotting With a Self-Soothing Plan
Now that you have started to chronicle and listed your hurts and sorrows, you can take the next step in Griefspotting a self-soothing plan. Rather than just waiting for the government or others to come to your aid it is time to do what is called “Self Soothing.” Yes, I said “self soothing”.
Have you forgotten it? You have been doing it all of your life starting as a baby when your caregivers didn’t respond to you right away. You sucked your thumb or even your toes. You cried louder or made cooing noises. You laughed and even smiled even though you were on your own.
Laughter is a great self soothing activity. Did you know that babies laugh more than 300 times a day while adults laugh an average of 25 times, and that was before the pandemic? As babies, we were soothed by warm milk and we continue to love a warm drink in the morning. I like English Breakfast Tea but my husband likes Chi Tea.
Of course, as you read, on you will recognize that you have many self-soothing habits and activities you just haven’t identified them as such. Adults who have a lot of self-soothing strategies are what mental health professional’s call resilient. Identifying your self-soothing strategies and building on them will help you bounce back from the boredom, isolation and depression or what Winston Churchill used to call “The black dog” during the pandemic.
To get you started on your Griefspotting Self -Soothing plan I have asked friends and family to give me some of their strategies. I also threw in some of my own.
Strategies For Self-Soothing
My husband, Phil, has been watching “The Great British Bake Off “ and has baked his first cake from scratch. He then shared it with family and friends.
My son-in-law, John, has developed a group of male friends who meet for morning coffee in a socially distancing out door cafe.
I have three daughters. My daughter, Heidi likes to walk in Central Park, post on Facebook and play with her puppy. While Heather, crochets and knits up a storm making masks, purses and blankets while listening to books on tape. Rebecca teaches and practices yoga and meditation.
I am an avid golfer and find it relaxing to be in nature learning new ways to get out of tough spots.
You could easily add to our list of strategies for self-soothing but you can never get too many. Practice the ones you have and pick one or two new ones from the list below. When the world opens up you will want to have as much energy as possible to deal with your Griefspotting list.
Additional Strategies for Self-Soothing
Posting on social media
Having a hot or a cold shower
Taking a bath in Epson Salts while watching Netflix
Putting on Aftershave
Having a Facial
Soaking your feet
Sharing stories and studying histories of ancestors (ancestry.com)
Walking on the beach
Working in the garden
Keeping a journal
Writing a book or an article
Reading a good book
Joining an on-line book club or class
Drinking Alcohol (Which is in the short run relaxing but can lead to problems)
Drinking Water (73% of our brain and heart are water)
Playing Video Games
Listening to Books on Tape
Calling three friends or family members
Petting a dog or cat
Sexual Activity (I will let you fill that one in)
Having dinner with your Pod
Taking an on-line class
Writing your own music (Garage Band)
Writing a Blog
Start today with your personal Griefspotting intervention by acknowledging and writing about your own grief, keeping your journal up to date but put it aside while you create and utilize self-soothing activities. Remember it is unhealthy to minimize missed family, missed funerals, missed moments of sadness and even missed moments of joy and reflection.
The opportunity to have that last hug, that last kiss and that last chance to say goodbye may be gone forever however through acknowledgement, reflection and ritual it is possible to find peace. It is my belief that healing will be found in community by hearing and sharing with others, how they have processed these events. We just cannot leave things hanging and unacknowledged as we risk carrying unresolved grief through days, months and possibly years of our life.
When the pandemic ends and it will we are going to do a lot of community Griefspotting as we will need to talk about, write about and grieve about our losses during this epidemic both individually and as a nation. This will be an opportunity for all of us to be truly human embracing compassion, hope, love and yes the reality of our own ultimate death.
Tags: bereavement during COVID-19, griefspotting, journaling