Behavioral Health Services Column - May 4
Here in McDonough County we’ve been very fortunate to have not been devastated by overwhelming tragedy associated with the coronavirus. We’ve done a pretty good job following the rules, being cautious with limiting our interactions with others, and using far more hand sanitizer than we thought we ever would. But like other citizens outside west-central Illinois, we too have experienced grief because of our current health crisis.
We typically connect grief with death, but it can result from many types of loss. Even if you have not yet experienced a direct loss, don’t assume what you are feeling is not grief. Loss has taken on a whole new meaning as we adjust to the coronavirus pandemic. Children in grade school and middle school are missing out on learning and times with friends and there will be no spring field trips. High school seniors won’t have the experience of enjoying their senior prom or walking across the stage for graduation. College graduates don’t have the opportunity to attend job fairs to help them decide on their careers or to receive their diploma in front of friends and family. Young adults aren’t able to congregate with peers, weddings are happening as a virtual experience and grandparents aren’t able to share the joy of cuddling with a new grandchild. The loss of touch with loved ones and the absence of traditions when there is a death in the family are heartbreaking.
Other people are coping with the loss of a job, which leads to financial worries and fears about how to support one’s family. We have been forced to abandon our daily routines and give up habits that we find comforting. We’ve had to give up some social freedoms with the need to keep our distance and sheltering at home which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness and fears for what will happen in the future.
No matter what type of loss you may have experienced, allow yourself time to grieve and remember you are not alone in this. This is an important time to practice compassion and self-care. Find ways of expressing kindness, patience, and soft-heartedness, not only with others, but also with yourself. Focus on what you can control in your life. Pay attention to the basics of eating well as good nutrition helps our mood and getting adequate rest as we need energy to face each day. Go outside each day and stay active to get endorphins moving. Endorphins are the feel good chemicals in your brain that keeps our mood steady. Create new routines as rituals help to keep us focused. Practice gratitude for what you do have and make a point to “stop and smell the roses”. Notice what is good in your life, in your family, with your friends and neighbors. Reach out to people you love and who matter to share memories, feelings, and hopes for the future.
If you find yourself struggling with getting through your day or you are feeling depressed and hopeless, it may be a good time to reach out for support from a mental health professional. At Behavioral Health Services, we are offering appointments via TeleHealth to allow for therapy to be provided remotely during this time when we are asked to remain at home and social distance to help us do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you would like to speak with a mental health clinician, please contact us at (309) 836-1582. Take care and be well.
KIM LAIRD, MS, LCPC
Director - Behavioral Health Services
McDonough District Hospital