Category Archives: anxiety

Ambiguous Loss and Covid 19

Hello Friends.

Life has changed so much since I last posted and there are daily changes.

About two weeks ago, I noticed that I feel sad and overwhelmed when I wake up and then I thought “things are still the same, it’s not a bad dream”. This feeling is similar to the time that my son died and many years ago when my dad died.

I remember waking up (during both these events/timelines) and being hit with a wave of sadness and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged (similar to how I feel now) and not knowing when the feeling would end or if it would end.

I think many people have feelings like this now with Covid 19. It’s terribly difficult wading through an emotionally painful, difficult experience and not knowing when or if it will end. I recently discovered this is called “Ambiguous Loss”, coined by Pauline Boss, Ph.D., and Emeritus Professor and Clinical Supervisor of Marriage and Family Therapy, at University of Minnesota.

I was part of a webinar training based on her book about a week ago and I wanted to share some newfound insights. Ambiguous loss is described as “An unclear loss that defies closure…often times it does not have validation or clarification or resolution”. Boss’ research includes information from POW experiencing crisis from Vietnam, 911 families, military deployment, and families of loved ones with dementia. Most every person right now has experienced some type of ambiguous loss-losing connections with loved ones who are physically absent but emotionally present whether they are sick or well, people experiencing job loss or co worker relationship loss, and healthcare providers going into a situation where they can be at high risk.

There are physical symptoms of ambiguous loss including depression, anxiety, family discord, confusion, grieving, hope, hopelessness, shock but it’s important to remember all these symptoms are NORMAL. She identified the ways all of us can shift from experiencing despair to hope and I will list them below with an example of what I am doing.

  1. Finding Meaning- I realize that my family relationships are very important to me (how are we pulling together?) and connecting in some way helps me distract from the world.
  2. Tempering (Adjusting) Mastery-learn to hold two opposing ideas at the same time-I have a lot of anxiety listening to the news about Covid 19 AND I feel peace when I don’t listen to the news and connect with others or reach out to help someone else (be cautious to blame oneself or others).
  3. Reconstructing Identity-try to recognize how my roles have changed before, during, and after Covid 19 (separate myself from Covid 19 and don’t stay in a role that doesn’t work-working from home and doing therapy by video-“no shoulds”)
  4. Normalizing Ambivalence-and I love this one because my webinar had a quote “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Tolkien   Try to acknowledge yours and others feelings, try not to judge yourself or others, and listen to each other. It’s actually kinda cool to think I’m sort of like Frodo and this is an adventure (I choose the word adventure instead of tragedy) I have never experienced.  Here’s another example:I want to see my family and friends, but I don’t want to get sick or get them sick.
  5. Revising Attachment-try to acknowledge how difficult it is separating social ties through social distancing and try to do new ways to strengthen or create other attachments, maybe through Facetime or Zoom or Marco Polo.
  6. Discovering Hope-I also love this one because Hope is increased through strengthening our connection spirituality. Whether you have a Higher Power or believe in God, discovering hope is huge and can comfort us. I know I feel comfort and peace when I connect with God by reading my scriptures, or praying, or listening to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints General Conference talk. I have found life is so much less stressful when I connect with God.

 

I hope this information is helpful for all of you to manage this stressful time in our world which is new for all of us.

My hopes and prayers go with all of you my friends.