While many of us might think of “grief” as being a response to losing someone we love, grief is actually a much more complex phenomenon.
Grappling with any kind of loss can involve a grief process, even if that loss isn’t exactly tangible.
There’s a lot to be grieving right now with the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
There’s a collective loss of normalcy, and for many of us, we’ve lost a sense of connection, routine, and certainty about the future. Some of us have already lost jobs and even loved ones.
And most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come. That sense of fearful anticipation is called “anticipatory grief,” and it can be a doozy.
A mourning process can occur even when we sense that a loss is going to happen, but we don’t know exactly what it is yet. We know the world around us will never be the same — but what exactly we’ve lost and will lose is still largely unknown to us.
This can be difficult to come to terms with.
If you’re wondering if you might be experiencing this kind of grief, here are some signs to look for, as well as some coping skills you can tap into at this time:
Maybe you’re feeling a sense of dread, as though something bad is just around the corner, but it’s unclear what it might be. (This is often described as “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”)
Hypervigilance is also a really common way this shows up. You might be scanning for possible “threats” — for example, reacting strongly whenever someone coughs or sneezes nearby, becoming agitated with a stranger who isn’t properly social distancing, or panicking whenever the phone rings.
This can also manifest as persistent anxiety and overwhelm, like “freezing up” when faced with decision making or planning, or procrastinating more often to avoid complex tasks.
If you’re anticipating danger or doom, it makes sense that staying emotionally regulated would be more challenging right now.
Finding yourself easily and persistently frustrated is a very common manifestation of grief.
For example, working from home might have previously felt like a luxury, but maybe now it feels more like a punishment. Not getting your preferred brand of boxed macaroni and cheese might not have felt like a big deal before, but suddenly you’re irate at your local store for not having ample stock.
If small obstacles suddenly feel intolerable, you’re not alone. These obstacles often serve as unconscious reminders that things aren’t the same — triggering grief and a sense of loss, even when we aren’t aware of it.
If you find yourself getting riled up more often, be gentle with yourself. This is a completely normal reaction during a time of collective trauma.
This article was originally posted on healthline.com. To view it in its entirety, click here.