“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S. Lewis
Fear is a very relevant part of the collective grief most of us are feeling right now due to the global pandemic we are facing. It adds a layer to the personal grief we may be feeling and we are not used to this kind of all-pervading grief that seems inescapable.
Grief expert David Kessler explains that we are grieving on a micro and a macro level and that grief is actually multiple feelings that we must manage. We are all experiencing varying degrees of sadness and fear about how life has changed without forewarning, which is beyond our control—on so many levels too – affecting our social connections, our freedoms, our finances, our health, the health of our loved ones and in fact, survival as a whole.
There are no answers as to when and how this will end or what life will look like afterwards. And most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come. This sense of fearful anticipation is called “anticipatory grief.”
According to Kessler, “With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We feel that loss of safety.”
Here are some ways to deal with anticipatory grief.
Validate and affirm your feelings:
Accepting and naming these feelings as grief is a powerful first step. You can then find meaning and figure out how to proceed.
Control what you can:
Acceptance brings control, and it is important to focus on that. Conversely, let go of what you are unable to control. You cannot control what other people are doing, whether you get sick or how sick you get. You can only make decisions for yourself and how you best see fit to try and maintain your well being.
Stay in the moment:
By fearing the future or dwelling on the past, you again lose control. You cannot dismiss your fearful thoughts, but at least try to balance the worst case scenario that pops into your head with what the best case scenario could rather be. This creates space for something in between the two extremes. Practice mindfulness and meditation to help with staying grounded in the present.
These are difficult times for everyone and it is not helpful to find blame in how others are managing to navigate their way through their own fears and grief. Rather look out for thoughtful ways of helping others who may also be struggling.
Also, be gentle with yourself. Do not hesitate to reach out if you need more support in any area of our expertise. And remember, you are not alone in this.