We’re living in difficult times, to say the least. I get it, and feel it, too. Even though I am by nature an optimistic person, I still have days where I shake my head and sigh. If you want to hear about that and commiserate or know you’re not alone, this is the blog post for you today. And if not, please skip this post and tune in next week when I promise I’ll be back to my cheerful self.
It’s been about six months since our first local hunker-down order. Worldwide, we started struggling with COVID-19 pandemic for a few months before that. It’s been sad and unnerving to see all the deaths, suffering, job losses, and uncertainty. If that’s not distressing enough, there’s racial and economic injustice, a polarized political system, climate change, and probably a few other things that aren’t coming to mind right now. It’s a mess.
To be honest, we’re often a mess, too. Most of us, anyway. I include myself in that group—I’m human. I’m often tired, or sad, or anxious, or worried, or angry, and sometimes several emotions at once. It’s overwhelming. And I am grieving, also.
We usually think of grief as something we feel when a loved one dies. I’ve had my share of that kind of grief, and my condolences to any of you who have had to do that or are going through it right now. If it helps, know that you will make it through the worst times and it will still hurt, but not as much one day. I still miss my friends and family who have died. But it doesn’t distress me like it used to.
But there’s another kind of grief, a grief for times and places and other things lost. That’s what I’m feeling nowadays. I grieve for the Before Times, when we could go to the movie theatre or library or coffee shop without thinking about it. I grieve for the days when we could send our kids to school and go to work without making public health, even life and death, decisions. I grieve for the times I could see my daughter or my 90-year-old dad and give a big bear hug instead of being the party-pooper who puts extra distance between us “just in case.” I grieve for the times when we all seemed to pull together as Americans without arguing over masks and flags and whose life is more important. (Okay, sorry about the political stuff, but all that grieves me too.)
So what do we do with all these feelings? I’ve learned that stuffing them inside and trying to ignore them doesn’t work. They fester and get worse. So I try to get them out a bit, let myself feel the grief or anger or whatever emotion or mix of emotions I’m feeling. I let myself sit with them and acknowledge them. Sometimes, that action in itself makes it a little easier to move on.
After that, then I try to deal with them. Depending on the situation, that might mean reaching out to help or volunteer. Finding purpose in helping others, working on causes I support, or checking up on a friend lightens my mood. Or it might mean being vulnerable. Asking for support from my husband or other loved one is hard when I’m the one who’s usually the helper, but it can be necessary when I need help.
It’s okay to be not okay. We all go through it, at some time or another. Especially in this Suicide Prevention Month, know that it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. Ask a friend or family member to listen or talk with you about your negative feelings, or call an expert if there’s no one you trust or it’s a lot to lay on a regular person. Please, ask for help when it’s too much for you to handle by yourself. You are worth it. You can get through this, and you can have a better future. We need you.
Here are some resources:
National Lifeline: call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness): If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line. NAMI also offers information and (virtual) discussion groups for people experiencing mental illness and their family members. Check out http://nami.org.
Alaska Careline: call the Alaska Careline at 1-877-266-4357. The Alaska Careline Crisis line is here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and your calls are free and completely confidential. You can also Text 4help to 839863 from 3-11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, or visit http://carelinealaska.com anytime.