These past few weeks, I have been tired, unfocused and surprisingly sad. The sun is finally shining after a dreary winter, I was able to gather with friends outside for the first time in a long time, I got my COVID-19 vaccine - all cause for celebration. Yet the sadness persists. I feel stuck.
Oh yeah - we have been living in a pandemic for over one year now.
I need to consistently remind myself of this statement. We are in a pandemic. We are intentionally isolated.
That dreary winter was very different from dreary winters past. For me, it was the first time I didn't spend the Christmas holidays with my family. The first time in my whole life. The sun is shining, but I need to second guess if I can gather with a friend outdoors.
It's easy to forget that we are living in exceptional circumstances because we have had to adjust to a new normal.
But this is not normal. And it sucks. When living with overarching grief, even relatively "small" experiences can feel really big and like nothing is ever going to go right again.
So what do you do?
There is no time limit for grieving. Feeling guilty or shaming yourself about missing people, places, new experiences, your old identity or way of life is not helpful. This inner shaming language sounds like "Just be happy that you got the vaccine and you're not sick. Not everyone has been so lucky.", or "You should be over this by now", or "Can't you just enjoy the good things about the day instead of thinking about what you're missing out on?".
Yes, I am happy I got the vaccine, and yes I can try to enjoy the good things about my day, but that does not take away from the very real feelings of sadness and overwhelm that still come up from time to time. Ignoring these feelings or labelling them as "wrong" only makes me feel worse when they do come up.
Introducing self-compassionate language has been a very key practice that I have needed to cultivate throughout this pandemic.
This practice helps to acknowledge the pain and grief, and can be comforting in the moments of struggle. Sometimes the best thing to do for yourself is acknowledge the grief and ask how you can be kind to yourself in that moment. To me, this often looks like resting (even when I feel I should be working), ordering take-out (even when I feel I should have enough energy to cook), reaching out to those family members and friends that I miss, and connecting with my own counsellor (even though it feels like I should be able to get through this on my own).
So, if you are grieving, I am with you. If you are finding little joys and ways to be kind to yourself in your healing journey, I am with you. If you are using guilting and shaming language towards yourself, I am with you. Self-compassion does not happen overnight, but every time you choose to treat yourself with kindness, this practice becomes stronger and will slowly begin to overtake self-critical thoughts.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes and is not therapy or medical care.
If you are interested in working together therapeutically, book a discovery session with Elspeth.
Neff, K. (2015). Self-Compassion: the Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. William Morrow Paperbacks.