Category Archives: regular

Some Thoughts on Our Collective Grief

I keep telling myself that the one constant we have right now is that the sun will always rise and set.

After my mom died, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. Some days I was sad and scared. Some days I was angry. Some days I was in denial.

And some days, I was just fine until something reminded me that she was no longer here.

Sound familiar? That’s because we are going through a collective grief right now.

There’s a great interview on Harvard Business Review with David Kessler, who co-wrote the famous On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. He explains that it’s real to be grieving the loss of normalcy while also feeling anticipatory grief for what may happen.

I want to take a second to thank everyone from healthcare workers to grocery store workers to Amazon delivery people for the massive sacrifices they are all making every day to save lives or to keep us stocked with normalcy.

But to everyone else, your feelings matter, too, and are not to be minimized. (If I’ve learned anything throughout the years, it’s that minimizing and burying feelings only magnifies them later.) Anything you’re feeling right now is valid.

And if you’ve lost someone close to you, you’re likely feeling that extra layer of grief. I’m not sure I’ve had a therapy session since this all began where my mom hasn’t come up. I wish I could call her right now and she could tell me everything will be OK. I wish she could give me a hug, and we could talk together about how scary this is. I wish I could hear her say “a little bug is causing all this trouble?” (I know for a fact that is what she’d say.)

Seeing all these hospital scenes is also bringing back intense flashbacks of the times I spent in the hospital with her, sometimes racing there, afraid I’d be too late. She also suffered a number of respiratory issues as her health declined, so that’s triggering to me as well. I’ve had all kinds of dreams like this lately.

And depression thrives in isolation, so if you’ve dealt with depression, make sure that you’re physically distanced right now, not socially distanced. Make Zoom or FaceTime dates with friends. Find an online group to join or some kind of digital content to consume like you’re going to some kind of lecture. My former therapist, Claire Bidwell Smith, is doing weekly live calls about this collective grief and anxiety we’re all facing.

My promise to you is that you are not alone, even if it feels that way right now. (This is also a reminder to myself.)

How are you doing? What are you doing to cope right now? What’s a bright spot in your life right now?

Social Distancing in Santa Monica

Lucy speaks for all of us right now.

I’ve sat down several times over the past week to start blogging and the words haven’t come. I want to write something that is helpful to others right now but there is just SO much information out there, that I don’t want to be redundant or duplicative. What I’ve been thinking about is compiling information on what I can find about any affordable mental health care resources and any helpful streaming fitness options. (Off the top of my head, my former employer, Daily Burn, is doing two free months right now. Let me know if you sign up and want workout advice! I still think it’s a great product.)

One of my social media clients said something profound: this is also a global mental health crisis. I see that meme going around “our grandparents had to go to war, we just have to sit on our couches.”

(I caveat *all of this* with the fact that I am fully aware of—and grateful for—my immense privilege right now in a million ways.)

But isolation is so dangerous for our mental health. As humans, we are social creatures—we need each other to survive. This is hard on all of us in our own ways—nobody is spared. Hard looks different to everyone. For me, it’s being alone and worried about spiraling back into a deep depression. It’s worrying if I do get this and get really sick and am all alone. It’s being worried about my 72-year-old father and my 85-year-old aunt 3,000 miles away.

I can only speak to my own experience, and I am not (yet! one day…) a licensed mental health professional, but here’s what’s helped me so far.

Keeping up with therapy. My therapist is based in NYC, so we were already doing teletherapy. (Some friends have asked me how I like that, and we started in-person first before I moved, so I had experience being in the same room with her. It’s been about 10 months doing teletherapy and it feels to me about 98% the same as being in a room with her.)

Medication. I take Ativan on an as-needed basis…and there’s a lot of need lately.

Structuring my day as best as possible. An entire day spent in my apartment is incredibly daunting if I don’t have a plan for the day.)

Long walks with a friend and our dogs—without my phone. I’m so grateful for where I live, always, and especially now. I love that my apartment building feels like a community.

Limiting my news consumption. I began all of this obsessively refreshing and reading everything I could. I wanted to know everything I could, to feel like I had a sense of control. LOLLL. The only things we can control right now are STAYING THE FUCK AWAY FROM PEOPLE (unless your work requires otherwise) and how we react. I’m working on social media content for a health website, so my work right now is also centered around coronavirus. I found myself on my couch this morning with coronavirus content on my laptop and the Today Show in the background covering it…and, no.

Staying in contact with people. I check in with my family a lot. I check in on my friends who also deal with mental illness. I check in on my friends with pre-existing health conditions. I check in on the amazing friends I have who work in healthcare, who are out there fighting for our health every day. I check in on the friends who look like they have it all together. None of us are immune to difficult feelings around this right now.

…but also creating boundaries. If I’m feeling an information/technology overload, I might not get back to you right away. If I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, I’m going to put my oxygen mask on first. I’ve fought so hard to get my mental health to a stable place, that I need to continue to take care of it if I’m going to be there for people I care about.

Reminding myself I don’t necessarily need to use this time to be productive. (But I’m also having fun making some terrible art with pastels.) Slowing down is taking care of ourselves, too—and on some greater level, I think this is what this crisis is asking the entire planet to do.

Helping how I can. I gave blood the other day, and you should, too, if you can. There’s a severe blood shortage due to blood drive cancelations. There’s a friend I know who depends on transfusions to survive. I did this to help her and help everyone else out there. I’m donating to the LA Food Bank. I’m ordering from local restaurants to help support them. (OK, that one’s not new, but.) I’m using the social media platforms I can to try to amplify hopefully-helpful information. My favorite source on Instagram is Jessica Yellin. She’s a former CNN journalist who is breaking all of this down very plainly. I find she’s generally not alarmist—until the situation (like this weekend, while bars and restaurants were still open) calls for it.

What’s been helpful to you so far in coping with all of this? Is there anything you’d like to see me write about that could be helpful?