By Dr. Ted Wiard
Golden Willow Retreat
Editors Note: This is part of a series by grief specialist Dr. Ted Wiard, dedicated to helping educate the community about emotional healing.
As COVID-19 has become the focus, for most people around the world, this column is attempting to give emotional support for individuals, families, and communities during this time of radical change.
The last couple of months have been challenging as each person, family, organization and community have had to find ways to navigate the radical changes in which COVID-19 has blindsided the daily routines and ways of life that was once the norm.
The grief and trauma in this process has been evident across the nation and continues to ebb and flow from different phases within the grief process. Even though the grief process is fluid and people move in and out of the phases, different phases will be more prominent at different times.
Frequency, intensity, and duration moves from denial, flowing more to anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and more and more in the transformation and relocation phases of grief. Depression seems to be a focal point right now as people have moved mostly out of denial, but as more time goes by with little good news, the end seems to be nowhere in sight.
Depression is a very important part of the grief process. It is the place within grief in which someone, as an individual or as a collective, starts to exhaust levels of denial, anger and bargaining, and moves into a deeper surrender that the situation is real and there is loss. Depression is the surrender and realization that what was, is no longer, and the psyche starts to move from being caught in the past to more of a present.
The hard part is depression can be exhausting, and there can be high levels of resistance to get anything done. There can be great expectations of taking care of the to-do-list and find nothing was accomplished. I see depression is similar to after having surgery and being given time to heal by moving into the recovery room, where you are not quite ready to reintegrate into the rest of the world, and you need time to realign, recover and mend. Depression is our natural recovery room from loss.
Now within the grief process, many people call this phase “situational depression” which is self- explanatory: due to a situation, your system has become bogged down and is trying to slow down and recover. One of the ways to start to move out of the metaphorical recovery room is to find safe people to reach out and connect with, get moderate exercise, take time to relax and realize that the nervous system has been shaken up and needs time to recover. Taking recovery time and allowing the emotional world to align with the cognitive, is how this phase can force a pause in the everyday world as a new norm is established.
Depression can also move to deep areas of hopelessness and helplessness, and if this happens, it is extremely important to reach out, find professional help and start to build scaffolding back to a place of safety.
Depression is a common phase within the grief process and does not mean it is forever. As the phases ebb and flow, being aware of these phases and acknowledging them is a key factor for healing and allowing the natural and normal healing process of grief from loss to happen. I wish you well, and until the next column, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call at 575.776.2024.