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Living in uncertain times

As humans, we like certainty, despite never truly being able to obtain it. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is shining a spotlight on our uncertainty and generating feelings of anxiety and fear. This can lead to significant emotional distress. When coupled with an existing bereavement, feelings of grief can become more pronounced.

As human beings, we like certainty, despite never truly being able to obtain it. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is shining a spotlight on our uncertainty and generating feelings of anxiety and fear. This can lead to significant emotional distress. When coupled with an existing bereavement; feelings of grief can become more pronounced.

Sitting with uncertainty

This is a challenge as we are strongly motivated toward creating a sense of security. Sometimes the fear and anxiety that uncertainty creates can present itself as anger, blame, sadness or panic. We may be instinctively driven to get rid of these feelings, to discharge them, but it is important to work on our ability to sit with uncertainty and tolerate the feelings that it generates.

  • Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.

  • Be kind to yourself in the same way that you would be with a friend. Be tolerant and respectful of your own emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel about your experiences, including your grief.

  • If you have calming practices that you habitually use (such as mindfulness, yoga, listening to soothing music, breathing exercises) this is a good time to use these. If you don’t currently have a practice, consider beginning one and seeking something that you find helpful. Ask for help if you’re not sure where to start with this.

  • Establish regular routines, including meal and sleep times during times of isolation or physical distancing. Routines can help provide a sense of normality or control within your day.

  • Allow yourself to engage with things that provide distraction. This might be in the form of time with pets, funny videos online, movies, television shows or games. This is a useful skill for dealing with grief. Make time to have a break from intense feelings or to engage with them. In general, long term avoidance of painful feelings is not helpful.

  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated workspace.

Grieving in times of uncertainty

It may seem as though the world is completely preoccupied with the Coronavirus pandemic, but this does not mean that your grief is not significant or that it should be postponed until a more ‘suitable’ time. Regular life and all of its challenges are still happening, with an added layer of grief and loss.

  • Reach out for help when you need it. Don’t put it off until things have returned to normal.

  • Many people are looking for ways to help others during these times so you may actually find more support than usual.

Self-care whilst in isolation

It can be difficult to self-isolate or practice physical distancing at any time, even more so while grieving. It is important to take steps to increase your connectedness to others.

  • Communicate with others via phone calls, video calls or even texting at least once or twice per day. Use social media mindfully.

  • Find ways to maintain a degree of physical activity. Commit to walking daily and from a distance, smile and wave to others as you pass.

This content was produced in partnership with Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement.