Covid and grief

Our pupils will have experienced a range of emotions since the lockdown came into effect. One of these may well have been grief. Here our Depute Rector Pastoral, Mrs Fergusson discusses the different kinds of grief which may affect pupils in the current crisis.

We are aware that Hutchie families might be feeling lots of different kinds of grief, and experts identify that we might feel the world has changed. It certainly has. It is temporary, but it might not feel that way.

We have lost connections, normal life and, really tragically for some, family members. This is impacting us all – many of us now know someone who has died and we’re grieving together, even if we don’t realise it.

If we can identify properly what is wrong, perhaps we can manage it a little better. We may all have heard of the stages of grief 1 but experts also identify different kinds of grief including common, anticipatory, delayed and complicated grief.

In the midst of the current crisis, we may well be feeling ‘anticipatory grief’ more commonly expressed as that ‘COVID19 feeling’ – the feeling we get because we are insecure and we don’t feel safe.

Understanding the stages of grief 2 might help us cope better. But the stages may not happen in a straightforward order. We might pretend that the ‘bad’ things (the virus and its effects) aren’t really that bad, which can often strike us early in any crisis: This won’t affect us.

We might feel anger, directed at others or internally: I’m not allowed out, I can’t do anything. There’s ‘bargaining’ (a teen favourite): Okay, if I stay at home for a few weeks everything will be fine?

There’s sadness: I really miss my friends and extended family. And finally, acceptance. This is real; I have to work out how to manage.

Acceptance is where the control and power sit. I can wash my hands. I can stay socially distanced. I can learn how to work online.

The kind of grief experienced also matters. If we look at anticipatory grief we can understand that unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety – our mind begins to show us ideas. We see the worst situations and that’s our mind protecting us. Our aim is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — our minds won’t let us do that and it can be painful to try and force it.

We need to find balance in the things we’re thinking. If we notice the worst idea taking shape, we need to make ourselves think of the best image. Not everyone I love will be unwell and we’re all taking the right steps. We should not let overly-positive or overly-negative ideas dictate our thinking.

When we experience anticipatory grief, we imagine the worst outcome. To calm ourselves, we should come into the present (for example, notice what’s around us: sights, smells, noises) let go of what we can’t control and stock up on kindness (for example, make connections, be patient, help others). And to all our pupils, most importantly, keep trying and be kind to yourselves.

Whatever your grief, let yourself feel it, and ask for help.

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