Grief is a complicated emotion, to say the least—especially because, as a society, we talk so little about it. You can grieve the loss of anything: a loved one, a pet, a job, leaving the place you always thought of as “home.” Amputees may grieve the limb they lost, and in the current environment, you may be grieving the loss of your daily routine.
Saratoga Hospital offers a bimonthly support group for those dealing with grief, but due to social distancing in the midst of COVID-19, it’s been impossible to gather together. Jean Malone, LMHC, hosts the meetings and has some advice for managing grief at this unprecedented moment in our lives.
“Avoiding it won’t work,” she said. “To borrow a quote from Helen Keller, the best way out is through. That means doing good grief work: talk to someone and release your feelings, cry about them, or write those feelings down. The act of expressing your emotions—anger, sadness, guilt, longing, relief—is good grief work, and each time you do it you move toward a more bearable place.”
We should all be practicing social distancing right now, so it might be hard to find someone to talk to when you’re feeling upset. That’s where a grief journal comes in handy. It’s a powerful tool which, unlike a diary, grieving people turn to in moments when their loss feels particularly overwhelming, with thoughts and feelings hanging heavy on their heart.
Here are some prompts and suggestions to help you get you started:
- Write about the person/place/thing you are missing. It might be helpful to tell your loved one about a recent visit to the restaurant you both enjoyed. Or, if this pandemic interrupted your spring break plans, write a letter to the beach about all the things you’d dreamt of doing. Directly addressing the thing you are grieving is an important part of the healing process.
- Express your feelings in whatever form makes the most sense to you. Maybe that means you’re drawing pictures, writing a poem, or using language you’d never say out loud. One of the most freeing things about a grief journal is that no one’s going to read it—maybe not even you. Your only job when writing in it is to get your feelings out, and there’s no wrong way to do that.
- No editing necessary. Grief journaling is not about grammar, punctuation, or spelling—those things don’t matter. In moments of extreme emotion, it’s important to get your feeling out. So forget the spellcheck and just write.
- Don’t hold back. The idea is that you can say anything in this journal. It’s an exercise to get your feelings out, not something you’ll keep and reread down the road. If you’re angry, express it. If you want to scream and shout, write in big, bold letters. Even if you finished an entry and immediately ripped the page out and threw it away, you are still in a better position than where you started. You still did the good grief work.
Most importantly, recognize that everyone is going to grieve differently, and you need to be gentle with yourself. If you want to talk to someone and are a patient of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, contact your primary care provider for a referral to our telephonic behavioral health services. For other resources to help you cope with this ever-changing landscape, visit the COVID-19 page on our website.
If you’d like more information on managing grief, please call Jean Malone, LMHC, at 518-886-5210.