fbpx
Friday, October 22, 2021

It’s OK if you have a little cry in lockdown. You’re grieving

We are living through a one-in-one hundred year event. We are all doing the best we can. And that’s not only OK, it’s enough, writes NEERAJA SANMUHANATHAN.

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

If you are one of the millions of Australians in lockdown, you are not alone in feeling a range of emotions difficult to put into words.

Lockdown days are blurry, with time lost within our own four walls. These walls are far more visible than we’ve noticed before. Our obsession with the never-ending news cycle leaves us both informed and overwhelmed.

- Advertisement -

Whether it’s a day filled with anger and sadness or oscillating between feeling grateful and feeling lost, this lockdown feels harder than ever before.

And the sadness you may be feeling, but can’t quite put your finger on, could be something called “disenfranchised grief”.

Let’s admit how tough it’s been

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to our lives we never imagined. It has transformed the world we live in, our sense of safety, our behaviours and how connected we feel to our loved ones.

It’s highlighted the importance of human connection. We’ve learned a lack of connection with others can bring social pain, just as real as physical pain.

We’ve heard it’s OK to not be OK. Just last week, Lifeline recorded its busiest ever day, receiving 3,345 calls for help.

What is disenfranchised grief?

The sadness you may be feeling can be down to a number of reasons. And feeling sad is not necessarily a sign of a mental health disorder. In fact feeling sad is one of the range of emotions that make us human, and has benefits.

But this doesn’t really explain the sadness many of us are feeling in lockdown right now — disenfranchised grief.

US researcher and professor Kenneth Doka introduced this notion about 30 years ago. He described disenfranchised grief as a loss not “openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned”.

This fits with what we know about COVID-19, with stories of intangible losses including loss of safety, control, community, dignity and independence. Feelings of loss seem to envelope us wherever we turn.

Grandparents lost time with their grandkids; children have lost parts of their childhood, the milestones, the sleepovers, the ability to play with other children outside the home. Parents lost their village of support and parents-to-be lost their birthing plans.

Refugees and temporary migrants lost the safety of new-found homes, with the loss of jobs, accommodation and support services; citizens lost the predictability of being able to come home.

READ ALSO: How to explain lockdowns to your kids

Students were robbed of in-person learning and parents were robbed of celebrating their children’s transition to the next phase in life. As well as birthdays and graduations, we lost funerals and weddings.

And when it came to grieving and loss, we lost access to the places and people that allow us to grieve collectively — our wider family and community, as well as places of worship.

cry in lockdown
Source: Canva

Is it OK to grieve about this?

Societal and cultural norms, including gender norms, dictate how we grieve. These norms allow us to mourn the death of a loved one. Yet it feels more challenging to mourn the loss of our way of life.

Grieving can feel complicated in a pandemic when others may have it worse. People may question whether it’s legitimate for them to grieve the loss of their way of life. Researchers also talk about a hierarchy of loss, a sliding scale of who has a socially acceptable right to grieve, rather than a simple “yes” or “no”.

Disenfranchised grief may also cloud our ability to identify and validate our difficult emotions, such as feelings of shame. This may be especially so when others don’t see these losses.

This impacts our capacity to express emotions as well as seek appropriate support when needed.

What can I do?

Grief is real even when it feels impossible to explain what you’re feeling. So it’s important to acknowledge the loss.

Grieving is allowing yourself permission to say out aloud what you have lost. It can be validating to also label the emotions you’re feeling, even if they sound contradictory, such as feelings of both anger and guilt.

Although the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms for people with vulnerabilities has increased during the pandemic, it is not helpful to always pathologise valid human emotions that tell us we are not doing so well. These emotions act as a compass for us to slow down, reset expectations, and seek support when necessary.

READ ALSO: ‘Love in the time of Lockdowns’: Trikone Australia

Setting practical and achievable short-term goals can help direct our behaviour to be more purposeful. Sticking to a routine (as closely as possible to what you did before lockdown) can also support our sense of control.

Check in with yourself and each other. Use social media for support, which many young people in the LGBTQIA+ community have found beneficial during the pandemic. It’s vital for us to hear others’ experiences that can normalise our own.

Finally, nothing is more important than reminding ourselves we are living through a one-in-one hundred year event. We are all doing the best we can. And that’s not only OK, it’s enough.

Neeraja Sanmuhanathan is a Lecturer in Counselling at the University of Notre Dame, Australia.

This article first appeared in The Conversation, you can read it here.

READ ALSO: ‘Hope I can work again’: how lockdowns affect young workers in hospitality and retail


If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or GriefLine on 1300 845 745.


Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts

Facebookfacebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia

Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
  Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

0
  To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic death...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

Being a ‘Chutney Mary’ and an unlikely romance with India (Book...

0
  For Melbourne-based social and political researcher Valerie Britton-Wilson, India has long held inexplicable allure. In her latest book A Touch of India she details...

The best of Perth

0
  Residents of Perth will proudly tell you that their city is the most isolated in the world. The journey from Sydney on the Indian...
smriti mandhana

WATCH: Smriti Mandhana on joining the Sydney Thunder (WBBL)

0
  Indian star opener Smriti Mandhana, the first Indian female cricketer to score a century in both ODIs and Tests in Australia, is an exciting...
Families ready to reunite with their loved ones overseas. Source Pixabay

Travelling to India after 1 Nov: All your questions answered

0
  Indian Link CEO Pawan Luthra discusses the Australian government's decision to reopen borders on Nov 1 with travel professional Ashwini Sonthalia. Who can go? Who...
Families ready to reunite with their loved ones overseas. Source: Pixabay

Travel exemption applications now open for parents of Australians

0
  As Qantas announced the new flights to India, Federal Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews announced that from today, parents of Australian citizens and...