I’m not quite ready to go back to normal life.
Well, and what was “normal” life anyways?
I’m wondering who you were before the pandemic and who you are now? How has the pandemic changed you?
I’m finding it helpful to pause and tune into my nervous system as I continue to navigate this ever evolving pandemic process. This mainly means I’m slowing down and listening to my body.
Two weeks ago I went to a friend’s art opening and I noticed my stress and overwhelm as I pulled into the parking lot. There were about 100 or more people there. I’d forgotten it was first Friday so the place was packed with people, bands, and food trucks.
I was not prepared for that.
Michael and I made it to the art opening to support a friend which was great. And it helped that inside the gallery there were maybe 10 people.
My nervous system can handle 10, not 100.
Michael was fine with it, but I wasn’t.
So, I became aware that many of us may be dealing with opening differently. And there is no one right way to do it.
It comes down to trusting your own pacing and noticing what your nervous system needs.
Mine needs to slowly re-enter groups, gatherings, and going out, etc.
And I needed to start processing who I was before the pandemic and who I am now.
I was recently hired to co-lead an online grief ritual for a small community with my friend Victor. (If you’d like us to come guide your group with a grief practice, let me know. We’re a pretty damn good team and are loving holding grief spaces together.)
One person in the group said, “I’m grieving who I was pre-pandemic, and yet I’m not quite sure who I’m becoming as we’re not out of this yet.”
That resonated with me, as I feel exactly the same. It’s as if I’m in the cocoon goo that the caterpillar becomes before it transforms into a being with wings.
My wings aren’t quite ready and I need a bit more time in the dark.
I’ve had two conversations this week with clients on this same topic. And I’m reminded of how nature beautifully teaches us about expanding and contracting. And there’s an invitation to be curious and gentle with yourself as we come out and then retreat back in. I invite you to go in and out as often as you need to.
One thing that’s helping me is a tool I’ve suggested to so many others. I learned this when I became a Certified Creative Grief Support Practitioner, and I want to walk you through it here.
It’s called the Ripples of Loss. It’s a map for you to begin to make sense of your grief.
You may journal or draw it or do a combination of both. That’s what I usually do…
So grab a piece of paper to begin. Set aside 30-45 minutes of focused time to do this exercise.
In the middle of your paper write your main loss. For instance, to process the pandemic I wrote: My pre-pandemic life in the middle of the circle.
If you’ve had more than one loss during the pandemic, well, first of all-I’m so very sorry you’re dealing with multiple losses…I suggest you start with just one loss for now.
Next, draw a line or circle around your main loss.
Now in the space around that circle, begin to write your losses because of that loss. These are often called “secondary losses.”
I wrote: dancing and singing in groups, contact improvisation, potlucks, sharing food, smiles, hugs, seeing my parents more, going out to eat, ease of life, etc…
Then draw a circle around that and then write things you’re worried about losing because of those losses.
One thing I wrote was: friendships. I’m wondering what relationships will survive and which ones may not. (I’ve noticed a huge shift in my relationships, have you?)
Now draw a circle around those and then in that last area, I invite you to write about the gains. What are those pearls of wisdom you’re walking away with? What are you taking with you? What have you learned?
And if you can’t come up with anything in this last category, that’s totally fine.
There’s no one way to do this exercise-we all grieve differently just like we’ve all done this pandemic differently and now we’ll emerge differently too.
This is a great exercise to begin to grok your grief. And it’s also something that you can come back to and make changes or add more insights and other losses as it’s comes into your awareness.
I hope this helps as you navigate this time of opening up and returning to “normal.”
And I’m really curious about what you’ve learned during this time.
I’d like to gather online to process the Ripples of Loss. Stay tuned for an invitation for that soon-maybe sometime in June.
I think it’d be super helpful to share these in community. Now is the time to gather together either via Zoom or in person (if you feel safe to do so), to be heard, seen and witnessed.
We cannot do this alone, there’s too much grief to process. And so we need to hear each other’s experiences.
One thing that’ll help me emerge from this pandemic is to have loads of compassion and curiosity for myself and others.
And I will continue to track my nervous system and honor my body’s needs and boundaries.
I’ll allow myself to expand into a small group of 4, and then retreat to my pandemic cave.
And this is how I’ll learn to fly again-by expanding and contracting as much as I need to.
And I will do so with curiosity as I continue to learn and grow and be grateful for who I’m becoming next.
These are still grief-full times, even as we open back up. Apply compassion and curiosity. Be kind to yourself and all others-human and non-human. And remember to grieve well, so we can be well.