Under the surface level of Valentine’s Day are the harsh grievances of those who have lost a loved one. Whether it is a family member or friend that was lost to the Pandemic, the romantic holiday hits a tender spot for those still in mourning. Licensed Professional Counselor, Jackie Perin, of Houston Therapy shared the Pandemic’s impact on grieving and how to process a loss around romantic holidays like Valentine’s Day.
Understanding the meaning of grief can greatly diminish mental stress, making it easier to move on. While the many stages of mourning include denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance, it’s important to know the common misconceptions of grief and what it looks like. “A big fallacy is that there is a right way to grieve, or that I'm supposed to cry or supposed to feel a certain way,” Perin tells Houstonia. “It sort of comes when we can tolerate it and that can look very different for everybody. It's a process of allowing what needs to come up for us to move on.”
According to the CDC, there have been 900,105 deaths from 2020 to 2022 with 90% of the underlying cause due to COVID. Within Harris County, 329 COVID deaths, and counting, have been reported within the past two weeks. At the height of the Coronavirus, and even today, many families weren’t able to fully process their loss because of safety regulations and overwhelming hospitalizations. One trend that Perin noticed in her patients is how the disruption of connection has not only affected coping mechanisms but also affects feelings of anxiety, and for young adults, substance abuse.
“People are feeling trapped or sort of stir crazy and just really stuck,” Perin says. “Sitting with our emotions when we're feeling bad is hard and it's good to have an outlet to get away from heavy feelings for a little while. People have died and they can't go to grieve with their families. You're alone with this loss that is unprocessed.”
In 2022, the need for a support system is critical now more than ever. A study by Rutgers University insists that “recovering from social isolation is difficult and does not simply stem from increased social contact.” Although mask mandates have lifted and society is actively trying to revert to its typical social activities, Perin says finding a support system still bears difficulty, but knowing yourself first helps.
“We need to be mindful of the human connection and how important that is to mental wellbeing,” says Perin. “I think the best way to figure out the right person is to know yourself first. What is and is not okay with me, and then what do I like in a person? What don't I like? What are the qualities that energize you? What drags you down? What makes you feel not good around somebody? Once we get clear about what we like and what we're looking for, then it's much easier to spot.”
The month of love may be tough to maneuver after a loss, but there are many mindful ways to embrace those who have passed with both acknowledgment and appreciation. Listening to memorable tunes on a walk and talking to family members about the good days can ease you into the acceptance stage, while feeling supported. Perin recommends allowing yourself to feel is the goal while staying away from comparison.
“With social media, we compare what's going on with other people, and it's better to avoid that and take care of yourself. If you're feeling lonely, reach out to a friend, or a group of friends that are in the same situation. Do something you'd like to do, it's more about honoring yourself and your healing,” says Perin.
For more information visit Houston Therapy online.