Grieving Uncertainty

I’m not sure what I’m feeling. It’s very much like grief and has taken me back to the months that followed after my son, Ben Koier, passed away. It’s this lethargy that I can’t seem to shake. I wake up and tell myself that I’m going to workout today. I have a small gym in my basement and no excuse. But then I find myself getting derailed and not really wanting to exercise. Not having the energy I used to have—before the pandemic—when I was so dedicated to walking almost an hour each day in the park. I know I would feel better if I did at least walk and stretch. Things feel so hopeless right now that I just don’t care. Much the same as when Ben died. I didn’t care about anything then.

I’ve read a bit about COVID-19 and grief lately and Scott Berinato, a senior editor for Harvard Business Review, stated that we were all suffering from anticipatory grief. “Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. 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’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

I don’t feel the fear or loss of safety and I do feel the uncertainty. I think I am also suffering from lack of purpose. For the past two years I have been working with people who suffer primarily sudden losses and giving them hope. We would meet at our office and I would walk with them through their most difficult days, providing coping strategies and hope. We even moved into a bigger space in February of this year in anticipation of serving even more hurting people. And now we are all staying home under our #teamkentucky directive and people are not reaching out for help. Maybe they too feel it is useless. That there is nothing we can do for them. I understand this feeling of hopelessness. Not knowing what the future holds and when life will return to normal, if ever, is really hard to deal with each day. Especially if you’ve suffered a significant loss in the last two to three years. You’re still learning how to live without your loved one and now this? Trying to find your “new normal” as a griever and now everything is uncertain? Makes me just want to go back to bed and wake up when this is all over. 

We have been doing a few groups using zoom.us as a way to connect online. It works very well and I heard a licensed therapist on the radio recently say that he thinks people share even more feelings via technology versus when they are sitting directly in front of their counselor. That the computer makes them feel safer to be more open about their problems. Interesting!

Today I started thinking about a book I read awhile ago about making your bed when you get up. Something I haven’t been doing lately out of sheer laziness and knowing I’ll likely take a nap at some point later in the day. William McRaven wrote in his book titled, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” 

Another thing I’ve decided to try is a self guided 30-day grief journaling intensive. Topics include, Why write?; What would your loved one want?; Guilt and regret; Continuing bonds bucket list and many more. It costs $30.00 and you can write at your own pace. Journaling is a coping strategy we highly recommend and with all this time on my hands, I have decided to give this a try and see if it helps me with the grief I feel over all this uncertainty. 

I’ve also been thinking about any blessings that have come out of this situation. As I flip my focus I can already feel a positive change in my attitude so you might also try making a list of good things in your life. For one, we have plenty of food and we are being extra careful not to over prepare or waste any. I make enough for dinner and lunch the following day so we are also saving some money by making things extend into another meal. We have been connecting with our extended family members more often and even using Zoom or Skype to see our grandchildren. Our home is cleaner and the laundry hasn’t piled up since this pandemic began. I am getting plenty of rest and even making time to read a few books that have been stacked on my coffee table for months. Now that the weather is getting better, I have been clearing out dead trees and weeding the flower beds. I am getting ready to tackle our closets and organize some paperwork. I guess in some ways this all feels like a “staycation” that I never intended to take. 

Ultimately, I have had to once again lean into my faith and trust that God has this. When Ben passed away it became very clear that we are not in control of our destiny. I believe that my higher power, Jesus, is and that whatever the outcome, we will be okay. “Thy will be done” is a song by Hillary Scott and one of the lines in the song sums it up for me: “I know you’re good, but this don’t feel good right now.”

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