Kym Marsden’s (prev. Friese) monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.

 

Like myself, I am sure your hearts broke reading headlines this week of the grief, disbelief and loss Australians are experiencing across our southern states.

Many are faced with the impossible, having to step back whilst their loved ones are distraught or palliative, without an opportunity to help, hold their hand, or be by their side to say goodbye during their final moments.

I know we recognise the necessity and rationale behind why this is occurring, but it’s important to acknowledge the disruption across our communities as their ability to process their grief and loss is impeded. So, how do we manage?

It’s important to acknowledge that there are different types of grief, but through this article I’ll be focusing on ‘anticipatory grief’ which is defined by Talkspace as “that lingering sense that more loss is to come, even if we don’t know exactly what those losses may be”. Anticipatory grief is also “the grief you feel when are expecting the death of someone close to you”, as articulated by Cancer Council.

Throughout this pandemic, we have all experienced some form of anticipatory grief as the cloud of uncertainty hovers around our futures and what it holds for us, our loved ones and our communities. It’s almost like weathering a really bad storm in a small boat where you can see the rising waves and dark clouds looming above you, leaving you feeling vulnerable.  As we know, the worst may be yet to come and we are starting to miss life as we once knew it; before our sense of safety was eroded, leaving us feeling disoriented.

Anticipatory grief truly lives up to its name, as it really is anticipation of what is yet to come across this new pandemic terrain we’re all desperately trying to navigate. As grief and loss is personal, each of us will experience it differently. For some it may incorporate the loss or fear of a loved one, inability to pay rent, restricted social interactions or inability to access essential grocery items.

Let’s explore some tips to help us navigate these overwhelming feelings:

  1. Human interaction: Maintaining connectedness is a powerful antidote, however it’s easy to isolate when experiencing a loss and the pandemic has restricted our ability to follow normal grief and loss processes. I encourage you reach out via phone, text, video call or online to share your favorite songs or memories with one another, reflecting on the happy times together.
  2. Grief and loss differ: We all walk our own path and journey to healing, so we need to accept this and avoid measuring ourselves against others. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to process your emotions and be mindful that avoiding your emotions can prolong your grief journey.
  3. Online support: The pandemic has made it impossible for some of us to find comfort in face to face support. Seeking support through a GP, health professional or support group is a much-needed reminder that we are not alone. You may even want to create your own online support group in your region and use that space to share evidence-based resources to provide a safe space for people to share their experiences.
  4. Journaling: This can be very cathartic and provides a safe space to vent. It also serves as your own healing timeline which you can reflect on when having a bad day to view your progress. You can do this online, in a Word document, or my preferred method of written form in a nice notebook that I’m able to hold onto, which can also include artwork or photos, not just written entries.

To conclude, I want to leave you with a befitting quote from Japanese novelist and poet, Kenji Miyazawa:

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

Know my thoughts are with all of you across our communities at this challenging time.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:

By Kym Marsden

 

Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.