This is a guest post written by Jonathon Novello, MSU Health4U consultant and EAP counselor.
Over the last month, mental health providers have seen an increase in clients with anxieties related to current challenges and uncertainties caused by the worldwide pandemic. They seek answers to big questions about their health, families, jobs, finances, and relationships. They describe feeling distracted, unfocused, sad, angry, overwhelmed, and confused. Many are feeling something unexpected, a feeling that they may not be able to immediately identify.
That feeling is grief.
Grief is an emotion we typically associate with death, but we can feel grief even when we haven’t lost someone close to us. In fact, grief has to do with how we adjust to any loss; and right now, we are surrounded by it. Think about the losses you’ve experienced recently and see if they are similar to what other Spartans have endured, such as loss of:
- Certainty and predictability
- A clear sense of the future
- Vacations and other experiences
- Time with extended family and friends
- Variety and freedom
- Comfort, safety and security
When humans experience loss we feel grief. Grief is the process of moving from resistance of that loss to acceptance. We don’t want to lose stability, time with our parents, or the opportunity to watch our daughter’s senior soccer season, so our brain resists that loss. We struggle with it and experience a whole series of emotions as we sort out what this loss means to us.
Here’s the thing about grief: there are no short-cuts. Grief is a process that we must move through in order to accept and live with our new reality. The grief process is often inconvenient, and at times frustratingly slow. While we are grieving, our brains are being taxed with a whole host of complicated feelings, from anger, to sorrow, to bargaining, to denial. These feelings come and go and are not linear. We might feel fine one morning, and then something happens around noon and we start to feel angry, and then by dinnertime we are suddenly weepy and sad. Or, we may think we’ve left anger and moved onto sorrow, only to feel anger well up again.
It is very common for people who are struggling with grief to have difficulty concentrating, and many find it much harder to focus on work, other responsibilities, or even pastimes that normally reduce their stress. That is normal and expected.
Have you felt like that at some point in the past several weeks? Maybe you’ve been unfocused this week or more easily distracted. Maybe you’ve been feeling unmoored and “blue.” You may have noticed some days your emotions feel like they are right under the surface, ready to burst through if someone says just the wrong thing, or you drop one more Zoom call.
We are all dealing with loss and knowing this might help us have compassion for ourselves, as well as others. You are not alone in this. Remember that grief is a process. We know that Spartans Will move through this, but at our own pace and in our own time. Be patient with yourselves and with each other and try not to rush the process.
Resources to Help You and Your Family
If you or a family member would like to talk to someone, remember The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential counseling service provided at no cost to MSU faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees and their benefit-eligible family members. During this period of physical distancing, EAP counselors are now exclusively offering Telehealth videoconferencing, which is an encrypted platform that is completely confidential and HIPAA compliant. Learn how to make an appointment.
Additionally, MSU Health4U has a variety of resources on their website that may be useful, including the following:
- Physical and Mental Health Resource Guide
- Article: Now is the Time for Increasing Our Psychological Flexibility
- The Emotional Resilience Video Toolbox
Lastly, MSU employees who are enrolled in an MSU health plan have access to Teladoc, which offers behavioral health (depression, anxiety, grief counseling, addiction, etc.) services via web, phone or app for members and their dependents who are age 18+. Learn more about Teladoc.