My friends, the storm is real. Life has changed. I see your loss, your pain, your sorrow. And I will not take that away from you. Those feelings are valid. And I am here to listen and not judge.
During this season of isolation, sudden change, so many unknowns, you may feel like your very foundation is crumbling from beneath you. Who are you now that you can no longer do your favorite activity? Extroverts, how do you refill your tank when you have been running on fumes for weeks now? For those of you living in tight spaces, how do you breath when your family unit is squeezed on top of one another? How do we live in this new world with so much fear, division, anger? My friends, I want to let you know that you are not alone, your feelings during this time are valid, and you do not need to feel shame for any of them. Feelings are just that, feelings. They are neither good nor bad. They do not define you as a person. They a complicated, fluid, and should be respected. You cannot control your feelings. Practice accepting them with love and respect. But, and here is the most important thing to remember, you can control your response to those feelings. Your response is so critical during this storm. How will you manage when life has been flipped on its head?
This roller coaster of feelings is grief. How do I know? Because I have ridden this ride before … and I am still on it. I wish I could tell you that once you accept that you are grieving, you will magically be transported off the ride. Unfortunately, grief is not a ride that will ever fully stop. For seniors, you will never get to finish out your senior year the way you were hoping. For people living alone, you will never forget this time of isolation and loneliness. For those of you who live with underlying conditions, you won’t be able to erase the memories of the fear you have right now. This is the reality of grief. It is part of what makes you who you are now. It is part of your story and will always be a chapter in your life.
My friends, should you despair in this knowledge? No. It will color your decisions, but it does not have to define you as a person. If you allow it, grief can help you be more empathetic to those around you, to more deeply love your neighbor, to be more appreciative of life and its beauty. This should not be confused with “you should be grateful for ______” or “so many have it worse than you do”. Please hear me, do not compare grief. Our experiences during this time are different but grief should not be shamed because someone “has it worse.” Your grief is unique to you and should be respected as such. Listen to others but do not judge their feelings during this time.
So how do become present in the storm? First, and this is so critical, let yourself acknowledge the changes. Write them out, speak them into the air, let them go physically from your body in some way. Allow yourself to think about what life was like before and of all the things you miss. Do you miss going to museums? What about going out to your favorite restaurant that is packed with people? Do you miss your play dates with friends? It is okay if you miss the way things were. It is also okay if you only miss some things. Maybe, you don’t miss anything. You still need to acknowledge that life looks different than it did a few months ago and allow yourself to openly feel all the feelings.
Second, challenge yourself: can you name your feelings? How many feelings are you having at once? Growing up, we are taught that either we are angry or sad or happy. If only it were that simple. Feelings are so complicated because you probably are feeling at least 15 different things at once. Try to name them. You will be surprised by the web of feelings you have. Write them out. Rank them. But do not judge them.
By giving yourself permission to feel everything with respect and free of judgement, you will being showing yourself love and self-care. These are the begins of being present. You may have days where you are experiencing more sadness and other days that you find more beauty. This is okay and to be expected. Show yourself gratitude for taking time to allow yourself to feel.
After you have taken time to feel, write out or say three things you are grateful for. My friends, what is the point of life without gratitude? I have found that gratitude has changed my entire outlook on every aspect of life and just naming things I am grateful for creates a life of meaning and purpose. Try it. Those little blessings in the storm are the breaths of fresh air, the calm needed for the next plunge. Find your gratitude and you will find the strength to weather the storm.
And one last thing, being present is a constant practice. You will not wake up one morning and be done. You do not have a destination you are trying to reach. This is something that you do because you are worth it and life is too short to not be present.
If you are having symptoms of depression, please seek help. I did. You are worth it.