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Anticipatory Grief, How’It May Show Up During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Posted on: Feb 06, 2021

The Coronavirus virus has changed our lives in many ways. In addition to feeling grief over the loss of life, you may be grieving other losses as well because there’s a lot to be grieving with COVID-19. For starters, there’s a collective loss of normalcy. In addition, many of us have lost a sense of connection, routine, and certainty about the future. Some have lost jobs and yes, the loss of a loved one is the ultimate loss.

And there’s this lingering sense that more loss is still to come. This sense of fearful anticipation is called “anticipatory grief”, and it may be knocking at your door.

We know the world around us will never be the same — but what all we’ve lost and still may lose continues to be an uncertainty.

If you’re wondering if you might be experiencing this kind of grief, here are some signs to look for, as well as some coping skills you can tap into:

1. You’re on edge — but you’re not sure why.

You’re feeling a sense of dread, as though something bad is just around the corner, 

Or it may present as persistent anxiety, like “freezing up” when faced with a decision. 

2. You feel angry at things you can’t control..

Finding yourself easily frustrated is a very common manifestation of grief.

For example, working from home might have previously felt like a luxury, but now it feels more like a punishment and is getting old. Or having more time to yourself initially seemed like a good thing, but now you’re feeling trapped and “stir crazy”.

3. You’re resigned to the worst case scenario.

One of the ways that people often cope with anticipatory grief is to try to mentally and emotionally “prepare” for the worst case scenario.

When we pretend that it’s inevitable, we can trick ourselves into thinking it won’t feel so shocking or painful when it does come to that.

4. You find yourself withdrawing or avoidant of others.

When we feel overwhelmed or fearful it stand to reason that we might withdraw from others. If we can barely keep ourselves afloat, avoiding other people can feel like we’re protecting ourselves from their stress and anxiety.

This, however, can backfire. Isolation can actually increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

5. You’re completely exhausted.

When we feel threatened, our bodies react by flooding us with stress hormones and “amping” us up, just in case we need to react quickly to a threat – commonly known as “fight, flight or freeze”.

One of the side effects of this, though, is that we end up feeling worn down. Being so activated on a daily basis can really tire us out, making exhaustion a universal grief experience.

If you’re experiencing anticipatory grief, what can you do to cope?

Validate and affirm your feelings. There’s no reason to feel ashamed or critical of the emotions you’re having. Everyone will experience grief differently, and none of the feelings you’re having are unreasonable during such a difficult time. Be kind to yourself.

Bring it back to basics. It’s especially important to stay fed, hydrated, and rested at this time. 

Connect with others, even when you don’t want to. It can be tempting to shut everyone out when you’re overwhelmed and activated. Please resist the urge! Human connection is a critical part of our well-being, especially now. 

Prioritize rest and relaxation. Yes, it sounds absurd to tell people to relax during a pandemic. However, when our anxiety is so activated, it’s critical to try to deescalate our bodies and brains. 

Express yourself. Creative outlets are especially helpful right now. Try journaling, dancing, collaging — whatever helps you to process what’s happening for you emotionally

Talk to a professional. Online therapy is a blessing right now. If you can access it, therapists are a vital resource for moving through grief and anxiety. 

Source: Healthline
By Sam Dylan Finch