Expressing and Processing Grief

At times during 2020, it has felt a bit like a constant loop of the “stages of grief,” which range from denial to anger to acceptance. Depending on the day (or even hour), we can go from feeling from sad to being mad to beginning to accept loads of uncertainty.

But grief, of course, is a real emotion and it’s something thousands of Americans are experiencing in different ways right now. We are grieving the loss of people and also our previous lives, which were filled with experiences - like eating in restaurants - and milestones, including birthday parties. And we’re experiencing this grief without traditional coping mechanisms, such as attending religious services or being with family or just getting a hug. 

Instead, we’ve got to move toward the creation of new rituals or the discovery of new passions. But the very first step toward that eventual acceptance? Acknowledgment, recognizing that it’s there and then finding ways to express it. 

Because this grief is different, it will require unique coping mechanisms, which still exist, but they will not look the same. For example, instead of meeting up with friends for coffee, it may mean setting up time for a video conference get-together or going for a walk.

We've got a lot on our plates right now and it’s easy to get bogged down with worries about possible losses in the future. While the “be present” mantra is a popular one all the time, it’s especially important now. Staying focused on the things we do have control over right now can help foster feelings of stability and peacefulness.

Finding ways to express grief - whether it’s cooking or playing music or gardening - can provide a physical outlet for those times when grief creates feelings of being stuck or uncertain about what could come next. Accomplishment can come in many forms, even crossing items off a routine to-do list, and it can provide incredible fulfillment. 

If you are experiencing grief and depression that requires greater support and structure to recover, Willow Creek Behavioral Health, offers outpatient group therapy. Enrolling in an outpatient therapy program begins with a phone call. The 24/7 phone line is (920) 328-1220 or toll free at (866) 618-5542. You will be connected with a mental health professional, including the option for a free, confidential in-person assessment the same day.