by Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
In week one of the COVID-19 crisis my therapist said something that I’ve held onto intensely throughout this horrific season. She said:
Kendra, now is not the time to take on the suffering of the world. Focus on yourself, Jason, your family, and your clients. There will be time for the rest later.
Boy did I need to hear that.
I’m a feeling type, an empath. Someone who easily and intentionally channels the pain I see in an effort to join people.
In my profession and in my life, I consider this a joy. A true honor that I can meet someone where they are and walk alongside of them.
But for many of us, the last few months were too much feeling that we needed to set tangible and energetic boundaries in order to survive.
And while the practice of separating, hiding, detaching, or avoiding emotion is not always beneficial in everyday life, it was beneficial in the start of 2020. In fact, it was largely necessary for many of us.
I stopped checking the news for death counts, I stopped reading articles about front-line fatigue and burnout, I stopped dialoguing about COVID-19, and I even gently tuned out all of the “boy, you’ll be busy after this is over!” comments.
I protected myself and that was 100% OK.
If you’re like me, you may have months of pent up grief, ache, and pain that you had to set aside to function, work, take care of kids/family, etc.
But what happens now?
Please know that this post is not suggesting that grief will happen only once and it’s not suggesting that there is only one way to grieve. In fact, I would urge that this is just the beginning of an ongoing process.
Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about how cuddling releases oxytocin, which makes us feel more connected? You know what else released oxytocin and endorphins?
Crying is healing. Crying can make us feel better by releasing our pain and improving our mood.
Crying also releases our stress hormones, making us feel more balanced and grounded. Crying can even improve vision.
If you need to release tears and you just don’t know where to begin. Or, if leaning into emotion doesn’t always feel natural even though you know you need it then I invite you to explore the words below as an avenue for collective grief.
Some of us are already familiar with the need for a big release of emotion. In fact, many women know how to channel this feeling into action because they’ve felt this intense build up once a month since puberty.
They know the feeling when you have something going on underneath the surface and you just can’t put your finger on it. That feeling of needing a good cry or knowing the feelings are there but you aren’t sure how to access them. And for many women they have developed go-to activities to drudge all that emotion up in a cathartic way, cue:
You get the point.
We know this confused, overwhelming, sad, achy feeling and so we know what paths to explore when we need a good cry.
Let me be clear, grieving a global pandemic is not about watching Little Women or the Fault in Our Stars.
And to do this, sometimes we have to relieve tension and allow ourselves to express.
We can cry alone or we cry together. I advocate that you do it together – turning toward your partner to guide one another in a joint grieving process can be cathartic and connective. This is just one way we can begin to explore our grief.
And if you’re not currently ready? That’s OK, too. We’ll be grieving for years to come. Bookmark this post for when you are ready and give yourself grace that now might not be the time for you to start.
Maybe you’ve had a good cry and now you’re ready to put the pieces back together.
If you’ve been thinking about whether couples therapy is a good fit for you then consider downloading my free couples therapy decision tree to help you navigate next steps after COVID-19.
Or, if you’re ready to start the couples therapy process and are desperate to learn more before you get going then I recommend my e-course the Complete Guide to Starting Couples Therapy: Kickstart Your Bond with Healing and Hope Today.
This e-course is designed for couples who are ready to learn more about the process so that when they start therapy they are educated, informed consumers and motivated.
Many couples spend the first month, or two, or three just trying to understand how couples therapy works. Or worse, trying to convince their partner to be invested in couples therapy.
Let me save you time and money. Learn about the process from the comfort of your couch, learn about your readiness for growth, and start taking steps towards healing before you sit down with a couples therapist. And, all for less than a first a first session costs!
We’ve endured a lot recently. Sometimes we need a good cry. Sometimes we need a next step. Sometimes we need a helping hand.
Trust me, I’m here with you.