Written by: Kirstin Schafer, Psy.D., Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.
Our timing to open our group practice during a world pandemic might be considered unusual. However, we know the profound impact this crisis is likely to have on interpersonal relationships, work status, life choices, and mental health overall. We feel there is no better time to create a safe and empathic place to heal and recover. It is in this spirit that we would like to offer you our first blog post on the psychological impact of quarantine.
If you are like us, you may be wondering what to expect when the mandated quarantine comes to an end. Many of our clients have asked, “Will we go back to normal? What will normal look like? What changes will define our new sense of normality? Will we ever regain some of the things we have lost and are missing?”
It’s pretty clear that this is a time of collective and private grieving, in ways both large and small. No matter the size of scope of someone’s loss, what we know about grief is that it is non-competitive. Mine is not worse than yours. If we have had the experience of loss, we are validated in our grieving response. No one is immune from the experience of grief during this time.
human beings can create and find meaning in what happens after the loss.
As psychologists, we recommend identifying our experience as grief so we can properly understand, validate, normalize and work through these feelings. Consider these examples of individuals grieving loss: a preschooler acting out at home who misses his friends but doesn’t have the words to articulate it; a 20 year-old who lives alone and aches for the causal exchanges that brought satisfaction to each day; a mother who is attempting to work from home while also acting as a tutor to her middle schooler; an individual who had a tenuous grasp on sobriety and finds it too much to maintain. Each of these individuals has been touched by numerous losses.
We are all experiencing “the collective loss of the world we knew” (Kessler, 2020.) For many, this means losses of our daily routine, connections, sense of identity, and ways of coping that offered stability and security. Tragically, some of us are even facing the earth-shattering losses of a loved one, a paycheck, or the ability to care for relatives. We will all be faced with the task of grieving. This might seem daunting and make us want to deny, avoid or invalidate our own experiences as “not that bad.”
Although the pain of grief is unavoidable, human beings can create and find meaning in what happens after the loss. In a recent interview with Brené Brown, David Kessler, author of “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief,” noted that while “there is no way around the pain, meaning is the cushion.” For us during this time, meaning might be things like developing relationships, giving to others, or recognizing our common humanity. To be clear, we are not “looking for the silver lining” in this time of tragedy. Rather, we are allowing for the hurt and pain, and staying open to the eventual possibility of change, development and growth.
None of us know exactly how we will move forward from this time, as an individual, as an American, or as a citizen of the planet. However, we should expect that we will need time to process how we have been affected, including to be angry and frustrated for the unfairness of our particular losses while acknowledge our hurts and validating them as significant. We will need time to establish new routines and ways of coping, help others, seek connections, and find meaning as we face the future both individually and collectively. More than ever, we’re all in this together, and we’ll be grieving and feeling our way through this time just like you.
Angela and Susan