What does it mean to live in a COVID aware world? The virus and its variants still threaten the lives of people all over the world. The phrase “the New Normal” is used frequently, yet there is much uncertainty about what that means.
Are we ready for the New Normal?
2020 was a tumultuous year. Though the strife did not stop on January 1st 2021, there was something significant about stepping into a new year. Perhaps the collective agony was taking its last gasp. Maybe now we could begin to rebuild our broken lives?
Maybe…. Maybe not.
Rainer Maria Rilke said, “How we squander our hours of pain. How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration to see if they have an end.”
Grieving is an uncomfortable process. It is painful, disorienting, and unpredictable. Most of all, it is indeed a process. It is not fixed, not solid. It is like the ocean’s tides. The tide comes in, bringing its insights, memories, and deep emotions. The tide goes out and we are left to process all that it left behind.
This takes time.
It will take time for us to process our grief, personally and collectively. The temptation is to turn our attention from all that we lost to all that has been gained. (And, yes, as hard a road we’ve traveled, we have uncovered a few precious treasures along the way.) In yoga, we call this spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing means we deny the darkness in favor of the light. That isn’t yoga, and its not transcendence. It is denial.
Our willingness to be present in this moment of time gives us a way to find balance between the extremes of being overwhelmed by our pain and disowning it. We don’t know what the “New Normal” will look like because, the truth is, there is no such thing. Attaching ourselves to the idea that things will be normal when XYZ occurs only creates suffering in the moment we’re in now.
Perhaps the new normal isn’t some time in the future when things look more like the past (except better and without a virus). Perhaps the new normal is the way we choose to be in the time we are living?
Some ways we might practice presence in our day-to-day lives:
· We are embodied beings. Our bodies are our homes on this planet. Take care of your physical health. Exercise, practicing yoga, self-touch and self-massage, and even using essential oils are ways that we can appreciate and connect with our bodies.
· Maintain connections with others. Take time to talk about grief with loved ones. Realize that we are all grieving our personal losses, and we are grieving as a species. Though our grief is not the same, we don’t have to carry it alone. We can walk with others on this crooked, winding road.
· Name how you are feeling. Call it what it is. If you are grieving, let yourself be grieving. Resist the urge to minimize your pain. You may or may not have lost a loved one, a job, a home, etc. However, your journey is your own and it is yours to walk. It is okay to feel all you are feeling.
· Find a healthy outlet for your feelings. Exercise, writing, and creative projects are a few we can employ regularly for personal self-care.
· Participate in hopeful solutions. When you are ready and able, it can be deeply healing to make meaning of our pain by alleviating the suffering of others.
Sometimes our grief goes beyond what we are able to process on our own. Complicated grief, otherwise known as Complicated Bereavement Disorder is characterized by difficulty accepting the loss, experiencing the pain of the loss, and adjusting to life after loss. It is on-going intense grief and difficulty functioning that don’t improve at least one year after your loved one’s end-of-life transition. You don't have to suffer alone. Help is available. I am not a mental health professional, but here are two resources to help get you started:
1. SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
2. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor