If you are old enough to remember the Maytag repairman commercial, you will recall this highly trained, eager to put his knowledge to good use, human being, waiting and waiting for something to do, something to fix.

I am trying to follow my routine of going to my office, where I think I will be waiting a long time to see someone in person. Oh, how I love connecting with people. I feel so honoured to have individuals in my life who trust me to tell me their stories. I miss this human presence already.

Technology is not really doing it for me, and I can’t believe that image on the screen is actually me!!  I was saying to my computer screen, which I have never had such an intense relationship with pre-Covid 19, “Mom, what the hell are you doing in there??” My mother is 92, has dementia, and I am quite sure does not remember how to work a computer, let alone hack into my laptop. 

When I see people in my office the normal way, when we are sitting across from each other, I now realize I never am looking at my own face. I stopped looking in mirrors long ago for self- protection, but now this Boomer gets her Zoomer going, and wow, lunch bag let down in the facial recognition department. However, enough about those self-centered woes about something as insignificant as wrinkles. I feel 42 and I am sticking with that! I have an abundance of gratitude that technology is available so that most of us can stay connected in this way, for the time being.  

When I came to the office today, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness. In mindfulness training there is a saying, ‘Name it to tame it.’ It is so important to name what we are actually feeling, and then begin to work skillfully with it so that we don’t become completely overwhelmed by our feelings, and consequently become emotionally dysregulated.

I named the feeling sadness, but then that didn’t feel quite right. I then explored grief, and that captured it more completely. When I was in the midst of 9-11, I, like the rest of the world ended up collectively understanding that the world had changed forever, and that our sense of security, including our ability to travel with ease was rocked to its core.

The sadness also reminds me of the HIV-AIDS pandemic in Africa, and the grief I felt when I volunteered in Africa and other parts of the world, and saw the complete devastation of millions of families, and the orphans they left behind. Complete and utter heartbreak.

I do not feel devastated about the Covid 19 pandemic. I think we are going to come through this and be stronger and better for it. My heart breaks for other countries who have not had the ability to control the wildfire that it is.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross found that we typically go through five stages of grief when we find out we are dying, or a loved one is, and that the stages of grief also can apply to losses of other sorts. I see the grief cycle as it relates to the multitude of changes, losses and especially the sense of a loss control that are occurring now, and will continue to evolve as a result of the present pandemic.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. They don’t necessarily have to go in that order, and you don’t have to go through all of the stages. 

Many of us went through denial and maybe still are as we began hearing about the virus, but felt it was in a distant place and wouldn’t affect us. Then a lot of people moved into anger at the directives that we had to cut March break vacations short, or cancel, and see a number of our normal routines and activities be curtailed. Bargaining is the third stage where we say to God or some higher power, or yourself, “Ok if I wash my hands a 100 times a day and I practice social distancing, everything will be ok in 14 days, and it will all go back to normal, right?” Depression deepens, if you already have a proclivity toward depression, but in terms of this model, for what we are collectively going through together, I would be more inclined to call it anxious sadness, caused by fear and anxiety as we question, When will this ever end? Will I die, or will a loved one die? This pandemic will bring up a lot of existential thoughts about the meaning and purpose of life. The last stage, and again you don’t have to necessarily go through this in this order is acceptance. This is when we truly understand that this is happening and we take stock and control of what we can to move forward into the new reality.

With the acceptance of our current reality, some control and personal power over the situation occurs. For me, I can decide to learn technology and work from home; I can wash my hands and use sanitizer; I can commit to staying isolated and social distance as long as necessary to flatten the curve. Those are things I can do right now, at this moment.  It is why AA is so successful, because in the acceptance that one has no power or control over the addictive substance, and faces the need to give it up, paradoxically control can come back into one’s life.

Buddhist philosophy says that suffering comes from two main places – dwelling on and trying to control the past, and dwelling on the future and trying to control that, neither of which is possible. All we really have is this moment and this moment only. If we are catastrophising or anticipating that Covid 19 is going to get the best of you, it is important to come back into the present moment, not go ‘future tripping’ as a young university student once said in the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive therapy group I co-facilitate. It is difficult, especially if you are like so many who are sensitive and have a natural tendency to worry.

The amygdala part of the brain, the primitive brain is there to signal warning and danger, and in times of great stress it is working overtime. Calm it down. Breathe slowly and focus on your belly inflating on the in-breath, and deflating on the out-breath. Focus on what you can do to say in control in the present moment. Clean a drawer, a closet, the garage, rake the yard or if you are still in a place with snow, build a snowman.

If you are feeling really overly anxious here are tips to check out.



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About This Blog

I hope that you will find these blogs helpful in how we can navigate this crisis together. Connection in a time of great disconnection is of paramount importance. We will need to find unique and creative ways to maintain connections, but humans need this especially in times of trial.

Gaye Gould
M.S.W., R.S.W.

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Categories: Grieving


Linda Henshaw · 2 April 2020 at 17 h 50 min

The info/tips are great for calming anxiety. I particularly liked this piece on grieving because I think that’s what I feel, as do many others. It’s why I’ve been near tears all day. I miss my friends and our crazy chats as we walk. Technology for all its benefits just can’t replace the F2F connection. We are such paradoxes – I’m quite solitary and yet also quite social at certain times. It’s okay to be solitary by choice but not as nice when it is forced on you. Then there is the fear of losing those connections, a big fear for me. I’m looking forward to your book🤓.

    Gaye Gould · 7 April 2020 at 19 h 40 min

    Dear Linda,
    Another good tip for calming anxiety is “Box Breathing”. That is when you inhale for count of 4; Hold your breath in for a count of 4: Exhale for a count of 4. The breathing will regulate the nervous system and if you do this breath exercise many times a day you will find that your anxiety will go way down.

    I think this whole experience is making us really become much more introspective about who we are, what is our ‘authentic’ self all about. The paradox is interesting – I too am a private person and quite introverted, although I can fake an extroverted person very well! 🙂 but that is when it is a choice. Now that I am forced to stay away from people, to do our part to get through the pandemic, I miss so much my connections with my many nieces and nephews and my clients and my friends. hang in there and know that we wlll get through this.

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