NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Grieving Losses and Healing During a Crisis

Much has been written about coping, staying calm, lifting one's spirits, performing acts of kindness, and getting emotional support during the current crisis, including articles that I've written for this blog (see my articles: Coping and Staying Calm During the COVID-19 CrisisCoping With Loneliness and IsolationResilience: Accepting Your Negative Emotions During a CrisisThe Powerful Impact of Kindness and The Importance of Getting Emotional Support During Difficult Times).  However, when you're ready, there's also a need to grieve the losses involved with the current pandemic in order to heal.

Grieving Losses and Healing During a Crisis

There is no one way, right way, or right time to grieve.  Each person's grieving process is different, so don't judge yourself or anyone else if you're not ready to grieve yet.  It's still early days in the current crisis.

Many people need to focus on lifting their spirits at this point in time because if they allow themselves to grieve, it's too overwhelming for them.  So, you need to know yourself and your particular needs at any given and act accordingly.

Grieving the Losses Related to the Current Crisis
People normally think of grieving as feeling a deep sorrow for the death of a loved one, including pets.  But, aside from death, we can also feel grief for other losses.

Grief For Losses
The following is a list of losses that many people experience at one time or another, which are unrelated to the death of a loved one:
  • Loss of one's usual sense of self
  • Loss of a sense of security
  • Loss of social contact due to physical isolation
  • Loss of a job 
  • Breakup of a relationship
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Rupture or problems in a relationship with a loved one that threaten the relationship
  • Empty nest syndrome (see my article: Coping With the Empty Nest Syndrome)
  • Loss of income
  • Change in a daily or weekly routine 
  • End of college and loss of place and the relationships formed in college
  • Termination process in therapy/end of therapy sessions
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of autonomy
  • Health problem that changes your life
  • Loss of a body part
  • Loss of activities or events that bring pleasure (e.g., sports and other forms of entertainment)
And so on.

When you look at the items on the list, many of them might apply to your situation during this current health crisis.

A Loss of a Sense of Self
The loss of your sense of self often involves the way you see yourself. You might see yourself as having multiple identities (e.g., a mother, a sister, an executive, etc) and some identities might be stronger for you than others.

For instance, if your sense of self is tied to your job and you can no longer work, this is a loss of a sense of self.  Or, if you identify yourself as someone who is always "productive," but now you have little or nothing to do that brings you satisfaction, this is also a loss of your sense of self (more about this in a future article).

A Loss of a Sense of Security
The loss of a sense of security is similar to how many people in the US, especially New York City, felt after 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  Due to the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, most people wouldn't have expected this type of crisis, which threatens our health and sense of security.

A Loss of Income
Many people are having either a temporary or permanent loss in income if their place of business is closed.  Many people's daily or weekly routines have been upended, and activities or events that would normally bring pleasure, like live sports events, movies or concerts, are no longer available to them.

Loss of Social Contact Due to Physical Isolation
People who stay home and cannot see loved ones or colleagues are experiencing a social loss.  These are relationships that people often depend on for pleasure and support.  Adult children are also worried about their older parents or grandparents whom they cannot see in person.  This can result in loneliness for everyone involved.

Loss of Freedom
Other people organize their schedule around going to the gym, which brings enjoyment and stress management as well as social relationships with other staff or gym members.  In addition, in most states, people are being told to stay inside, except to go to the food store, pharmacy or bank, so there has been, of necessity, a loss of freedom.

The Damage Related to Ignoring Emotions Related to Your Losses
Eventually, these losses need to be acknowledged and grieved in order for people to move on and heal.  When losses aren't grieved, the losses can develop into complicated losses or lingering losses that are ignored on a conscious level but continue to affect people on an unconscious level.

If you ignore your emotions related to your losses indefinitely, you might experience your losses on a physical level.

You might get headaches, backaches, insomnia, and so on because, even though you're able to keep the thoughts and feelings from bothering you on a conscous level, on an unconscious level, due to the connection between the mind and the body, your body might register these losses in a painful way.

You might not even make the connection between what you're experiencing physically and your unresolved grief.

The Five Stages of Grief
As you might already know, there are five stages of grief.  To discuss them as stages can be somewhat misleading because these stages don't usually occur as a linear process.  You don't necessarily go through the stages in a particular order and you'll probably revisit certain stages more than once or the stages might overlap.

The five stages of grief include:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance 
Current Losses Can Trigger Emotions About Prior Losses
It's not unusual for current losses to trigger emotions about earlier losses, especially if those losses haven't been worked through and remain unresolved.

Recognize that if you're having an unusually intense reaction to your current losses, you might be experiencing the stirring up and triggering of these other unresolved losses.

Most therapists who practice experiential therapy usually check for memories of earlier losses that might be feeding into your current emotions.

In clinical hypnosis, this type of checking back is called an Affect Bridge.

In EMDR therapy, much of which was derived from clinical hypnosis, the checking back is called a Float Back.

Future Articles About Grieving Losses to Heal During the Current Crisis
In future articles, I'll elaborate on the issues raised in this article and discuss how these stages might relate to the losses involved in the current health crisis and how to grieve for these losses when you're ready.

In the meantime, even if you're not ready to grieve, recognize that part of what you're feeling with regard to these losses is grief, and what you're feeling is a common response to loss.

Getting Help in Therapy
Grieving for your losses can be difficult to do on your own.

Rather than ignoring your grief, you can work with a licensed psychotherapist who has experience helping clients to work through these issues so you can heal in a shorter period of time.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP , Somatic Experiencing therapist and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples  (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative).

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome traumatic experiences.

During the current crisis, I'm providing phone and online video sessions.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.