We are living in a time of crisis. We have lost our lives as we have known them, and we do not know when this will end or what life will look like when it does. Crisis is a rite of passage from one time and space to another that creates uneasiness and stirs emotion along the way with such feelings as:
“I am feeling terrible and I’m not sure what I am feeling.”
“I feel that I have lost my freedom.”
“I can’t go where I want to go and do the things that give me pleasure. Am I just shallowing in self pity and self centered?”
“What is wrong with me that I can’t settle down and ride this thing out? I know it will not last forever.”
Beginning the Process
Crisis is more than a rite of passage; it is also a process with known steps. The first step is separation. It begins when the bottom falls out of your life. This pandemic was a slow crumbling road that became a sudden sink hole.
A few years ago, I was driving on one of my well-worn paths to a weekly meeting. Zipping along in my Mini Cooper, I was blissfully trusting the road under my tires. One hour later, I took the same road on my return route. In the lane that I had traveled, a huge sink hole had opened up while I was at my meeting. It was large enough to swallow my Mini. I was shocked at the crisis that I missed that day.
On March 27, our world changed when the governor issued a stay-at-home order. The crisis that was brewing had now officially caved in on us. The road under our feet fell away, just like that sink hole I missed that day. This time I, along with all of you, felt the full force of having all we knew fall away. We had become separated from our known world. We were thrown into the separation phase of
We are now in the second phase, liminal time. What was is no longer, and what will be has not arrived. This phase is filled with uncertainty and, for the moment, is limitless. There are indications of change but do we trust them to be safe? Can we enter into the beginnings of the new life or must we wait longer?
This is also the phase where we encounter grief. What we are feeling is grief over
what we have lost and are still losing. Many things must be put on hold, whether we like it or not:
“I wanted to make a career change.”
“I was planning to move to a new state.”
“I had started dating someone who seemed like it would work.”
“I miss my mother, I want to hug my grandchildren, I miss hugs from friends…”
The list goes on and on.
Are those thoughts and feelings normal?
Yes. Absolutely so. And it is important to feel them, rather than dismiss them. When feelings are not allowed to be known and expressed, they grow and get stored in your body. They will come out in unexpected, unwanted and harmful ways, such as headaches, stomach aches, poor decisions, and lethargy.
Grief attracts grief, so don’t be surprised if at moments you remember losses from the past or have your grief expand to encompass the losses of others. Be with the feelings; they will be processed and pass. Grief comes in waves, but just like the waves in the ocean, they will discharge their energy and flow away.
Once you have felt the feelings, look for what is within your control in that moment. Find an act of self compassion. Even in this time of self quarantine, there are many options, including a quiet walk, a cup of coffee or tea, a conversation with a friend, beautiful music, the beauty of the earth.
Look at what cannot be lost, and realize that there are things you have gained. Your underlying self cannot be lost. Neither can the bonds you have with others or the experiences you have had in your life. These things cannot be taken away or lost. Yes, this list may be long, but don’t forget to count what you’ve gained in this time as well: your ability to tolerate the hardships of the moment; the creative ways you take care of yourself in this time; the many “work arounds” that have been developed; and what you have learned about yourself.
We are living through a unique and amazing time filled with contradictions, gains and losses. We are all experiencing that rite of passage called crisis at the exact same time, feeling the same confusing feelings and wondering what comes next. That alone allows us all to be able to relate to each other a little better, and shows that the feelings you feel are as normal as it gets right now. Just don’t forget to feel them so that when the next step of this crisis comes, you’re emotionally prepared for it.