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Coping with loss during COVID-19

April 3, 2020

The following is a guest post by RRC Counsellor Lindsay Storey-Iliffe, MSW. 

During this time of COVID-19, we’re all experiencing loss. As a student, you might be missing your daily routine, including activities like:

  • commuting to the college,
  • getting coffee with friends,
  • gathering in the Library to study,
  • having face-to-face interactions with instructors or classmates,
  • going to the gym, mall, or bar.

You might be processing the loss of plans and ideas related to school or career. If you live alone you might be missing your connection to other people or if you live with your family you might be missing your “alone” time. You might be experiencing many different losses.

What is grief?

Grief is our reaction to loss. It can affect the ways we behave, how we feel physically, how we feel emotionally and how we think. It is ever changing. In one moment, you might feel like you’re okay, you’re getting your work done, you feel like you can do this and then out of nowhere you feel angry and frustrated and like you can’t do this.

What helps?

Understand that grief is a natural response to loss. If your feelings, thoughts and behaviors are somewhat erratic and out of the ordinary right now, that makes sense. Recognize that you are probably already doing many things to cope and get through each day. There is no one thing that will help everyone, but here are a few things to think about.

Physical Strategies

Check in with your body. How is it doing? Taking care of your physical needs can help your whole system cope better. Schedule time (literally) each day to check in with your body and practice some kind of physical self-care. You might schedule 1 hour once per day or 15 minutes a few times per day. Do what works for you.

Choose activities or physical self-care that you like. This might include a walk around the block, taking a long bath, cooking or eating something healthy, cleaning or tidying your space, dancing, or practicing yoga or breathing exercises.

Emotional Strategies

Make lots of room for feelings! Whatever you are feeling, it is okay. If you can acknowledge your feelings with compassion, they will often settle. For example, “I’m feeling so anxious and that’s okay, there is a lot to feel anxious about” or “I’m feeling happy and that’s okay. I can feel happy and it doesn’t mean I’m ignoring or minimizing what is going on in the world”.

Finding ways to express your feelings can also help. That might mean talking to a friend, family member or counsellor or you might try journaling, painting or drawing. If your emotions are overwhelming you, try self-soothing or distracting exercises like, using a stress ball, spending time with your pet, aromatherapy, listening to music or trying a guided meditation.

Cognitive  Strategies

Check in with your thoughts many times per day. Your thoughts will influence how you are feeling and coping. If your thoughts are increasing your sadness, fear, worry, or anxiety, try to stop them. Try saying to yourself “this isn’t helping; I need to think about this differently” or “I need to think about something else”.

It’s hard to stop thoughts because we’re usually trying to make sense of something, figure it out or fix it. Some things that can help with shifting your thoughts include writing them down, responding to them with compassion, making a list of strengths, or keeping a gratitude journal. You could also watch a movie, play a game, listen to a guided visualization, read a book for pleasure or even sink yourself into some school work.

Support

This is not an easy time and you are not alone. If you are struggling, please know that Red River College has supports ready to assist you.