Grieving Who/Where You Could Have Been in 2020
We are coming up on one year of the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. What I recall is that the weekend of my daughter’s birthday in March 2020 is when everything began to shut down and panic started setting in. Businesses were irrevocably affected, students moved to virtual learning, and restaurants, gyms, and bars shut down. Employees moved to doing virtual work or were laid off, and businesses struggled to figure out how to “pivot” and adjust to the new regulations, apply for loans to stay afloat, or were preparing to go out of business. Throughout all of this, people just like you and me struggled to get through “just two weeks” and then two months, and now almost a full year of these changes. In all likelihood, you’re not who or where you wanted to be right now because of the pandemic.
Grief as a Reaction to Your Losses
Maybe you haven’t yet realized it, or may you have, but your plans for yourself most likely aren’t matching the reality of who and where you are today. Maybe you planned to have your child start his or her school career for kindergarten as everyone one else you’ve known has, in-person in a classroom, with you regaining a few hours of your time each day to get things done. Or maybe you were planning on buying a house this year but your job cut your hours or salary and now you’re just struggling to make it every month. Or possibly you were looking forward to getting married and you’re now grieving the loss of a family member due to COVID. Regardless of what you were hoping and planning for yourself, most likely it did not happen. The loss of our expectations is not often talked about as a true loss that may inspire a grief reaction, so let’s explore this a bit more in depth.
What Experiences Did You Lose in the Past Year?
Start with making a list, mentally or in writing, of what you have lost in the past year. If you can’t think of anything tangible, think of the things you expected to have that you didn’t have. Consider vacations and adventures you planned to take, family or friends you hoped to visit or connect with, or even just regular routines or life that you thrive best in. Then take a look at your lists and really consider what are the primary losses for yourself, and think them through. As you know, if you ignore a loss and don’t give yourself the time to grieve properly, it will come back up and affect you later. The goal here is to really acknowledge all of the losses you’ve had and allow yourself to be sad for a bit because of it.
What Expectations for Yourself Did You Lose in the Past Year?
Now we’re going to focus on the expectations you had for yourself over the past year. Who did you expect yourself to be now, as you’ve gotten one year older? Did you expect to have more knowledge about a particular topic, to be more advanced in your career with more responsibility, or for your kids to have thrived in the past year with their friends, schoolwork and extracurricular activities? Well, if your expectations aren’t matching reality, you’re not the only one. We are all in the same boat here. Not very many people, if any, have actually thrived in the past year. So give yourself a bit of grace and understanding, and lower your expectations of what you think you “should” have achieved.
How to Grieve Who and Where you Wanted to Be
Just naming your grief as a reaction to your losses over the past year is the first step towards feeling better. Sometimes we wonder, “what is going on with me?” or “why can’t I adjust to things like others do?”. When you compare yourself to others, it’s not fair to you because every situation and circumstance is different. This past year has been HARD and it’s ok to acknowledge that. It’s ok to say you’re only going ok, or not even doing ok, and that is very understandable. You, we, have never had a year like this past year. It’s ok to be sad, to be angry, or even depressed. Once you tell yourself it’s ok to have these reactions, then it’s easier to work towards resolving them.
Grief is a process that takes time, and the losses you’ve had over the past year will definitely take time to think about and resolve. If you need support for grief over your losses over the past year, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone. Talk to a friend, or family member, or a professional. We offer grief counseling with our trained and experienced professional counselors and we can help you identify what is going on with you before it gets too overwhelming. Getting help is easy and may be the answer to what you’re looking for!
How We Can Help
Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.