Positive Parenting: The Power of Connection, Kristine Petterson

parenting tips, connecting with your kids, mindful parenting, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

Parenting through the ups-and-downs of our pandemic times can be quite challenging, with ever-changing situations—school open, school closed; mask on, mask off; quarantines on or off, shortened or lengthened, along with all of our health concerns, and loss of loved ones, in-person connection, social activities, and more. It can really take its toll on us, our children, and our parenting.

Perhaps you started 2022 out with hopes of building more connection with your kids, or having more peace in your life and household, but have since found yourself tearing your hair out at some point in the day, or cramming in all those needed chores and collapsing exhausted at night. Yet connecting mindfully can make all the difference in enjoying our lives and relationships despite the challenges.

What is this whole connection thing, really? While connection is described as a link or relationship between people, ideas or things, I like to quote Dr. Brené Brown in my Mindful Parenting program: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

This connection business is powerful stuff.

I resisted it for a long time thinking I just didn’t have time or energy for one more thing. Now I know that connection is not something extra you have to do; it’s just making a choice to do all the things differently. Whether it’s family dinner, scrubbing your shrieking child’s hair in the bath (we’ve all been there, right?), buying groceries, pumping gas, or even cleaning house. We can rush through our whole day feeling resentful and undone, or we can take each step with love, looking for magical moments to connect with self and others.

It’s helpful to acknowledge that, at first, creating deep mindful connection habits takes work, focus, and awareness throughout your day-to-day grind. For me, it also requires a commitment to reversing downward “should spirals” so that I can put the stuff of life on hold to truly see and be seen. I used to think some people were just born into a life of calm and ease and deep eye-gazing, and other people (like me) were born running around like chickens with their heads cut off and never really seeing anything other than the next check box on the never-ending to-do list.

What I’ve learned is that connecting meaningfully is a muscle you build. Step by step, I found I was able to apply strategies to my relationships with myself, partner, friends, kids, and clients that cultivated connection and deepened the fun we had. I took lots of detours on this journey, so I’ve broken down what I feel is the easiest path to powerful connection here for you.

Pause

Slowing down is key, and also really hard to do if you’re not in the habit. I actually had to get ridiculously deliberate about making space for connection, but now the practices that felt difficult and disjointed are comfortable, and I feel irritation and resistance when I don’t stick to them.

It might look like:
• Setting a timer several times a day to just check in with your breath or to put your hand on your chest to see if you can feel your heartbeat.

• Making a sign to put up in rooms where you usually feel rushed and frustrated (for me it’s the kitchen) that says “Stop. Breathe. What about life is beautiful right now?”

• Putting your phone on its charger for a few hours each day so you can connect with certain tasks and people without distraction.

Notice

Check in with what you are thinking and feeling when the timer goes off or you see that sign. Are you frantic and weighed down by the dozens of tasks on your list? Exhausted by the never-ending work of keeping up appearances?

It might look like:

• “I’m overwhelmed by all that I have to do today.”

• “I feel hungry or thirsty or need to move my body right now.”

• “I’m feeling really lonely, yet I’m surrounded by people.”

• “I’m holding my breath, rushing from one thing to the next, as if that will help me go faster.”

Connect

Make a conscious connection to what you want to be thinking and feeling in this moment—you don’t have to change what you’re doing. Keep chopping veggies or mopping the floor and look for something kinder, easier, and more joyful to connect to in that moment.

It might look like:

• Shifting from hate-cleaning to connection cleaning—turn on some tunes, take a deep breath, and sparkle up the home you love.

• Asking loud obnoxious children to play a game outside while you breathe easy and enjoy making dinner in peace and quiet.

• Calling your grumpy child (or partner for that matter) over for a hug and a deep breath. Bonus points if you do it without saying a word—just smile and look them in the eye.

Will they think you’ve been smoking something?

It’s possible. And honestly, these practices can provide a wonderful rush. The hormones created by connection are the real deal and don’t cost anything. I cringe to think about how much beauty and sweetness I missed when I was focused on the miserable acts of doing, cleaning, and box-checking. I know I tend to get distracted by the never-ending emails, errands, and obligations, but that I’m going to do the work to slow down and connect to the everyday magic along the way.

Petterson lives in Moscow, Idaho with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist, and mindful parenting educator. She can be contacted via her website at http://www.kristinepetterson.com.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Healthy Cooking: Sweet Greens & Carrots, Val Wilson

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Spring is the time our bodies go through a natural cleansing. We have just spent months indoors, typically eating more heavy foods seasoned with more fat to help keep us warm. When spring comes, it’s time to lighten up your cooking and include cleansing green foods.

Green foods contain chlorophyll, which has many healing properties such as detoxing the liver. The liver, gallbladder, and nervous system are organs to focus on feeding and nurturing during the spring. Chemically similar to hemoglobin, a protein that is essential in red blood cells as it carries oxygen around a person’s body, chlorophyll also can help with wound healing, cancer prevention, and is good for your skin.

Kale and collards greens are in this category of green foods. Both are high in vitamin C, protein, and iron. Celery helps to cleanse the blood, which brings one’s energy up to help with the busier time of spring. 

Carrots are a great vegetable to add color and sweetness to any dish. In the recipe below, the sweetness of the carrots and raisins help balance out the bitterness of the greens. Also known for helping to purify the blood, carrots are high in vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus. Seasoning this dish with lemon juice and brown rice vinegar brings in the signature flavor of spring—sour. 

Sweet Greens & Carrots

2 cup carrots (pencil-cut) 
2 cups celery, including leaves (diced) 
Olive oil
Sea salt 
1/2 cup raisins 
2 cups collard greens (diced) 
4 cups kale (diced) 
4 cups summer Napa cabbage (diced) 
1/4 cup water 
1 T. tamari 
1 T. brown rice vinegar 
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds 

In a large pot, sauté the carrots in a little olive oil and a pinch of sea salt for a couple of minutes. 

Move the carrots to the side of pot. Add the celery and another pinch of sea salt to the middle of the pot and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Layer the raisins, collard greens, kale, and cabbage on top of sautéed vegetables. 

Add the 1/4 cup water, tamari, and brown rice vinegar. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes, until vegetable are soft. 

Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and sunflower seeds.

Mix everything together and serve warm.

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit http://www.macroval.com for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on Facebook at Macro Val Food.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Key to Resilience: The Difference Between Powerless & Helpless, Debra L. Smith, PsyD, CMMT

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Resilience refers to the strength of our coping skills when faced with difficulties in our lives, how well we manage stress and stressful situations without losing our health and well-being. Another word for resilience is elasticity, how quickly and easily we stretch during and bounce back from physical, emotional, and psychological challenges.

Our resilience is like a rubber band, stretching without breaking when pulled and returning to its original shape when released. Paying attention to what stretches our resilience, lessens our elasticity, and returns us to our original capacity, keeps us healthier and happier.

How we think about the events in our lives has a direct impact on our resilience and elasticity. Take two words we use interchangeably to describe what happens to us–powerless and helpless. We use these words when we find ourselves in situations where we believe and feel like we have no control.

Changing our perception of these words and how we use them shifts our experience, ability to cope, and ability to bounce back. Using the word “powerless” to represent the situation and characteristics of the event, and the word “helpless” to represent our internal and external reaction to an event can be one way of maintaining resilience.

Recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting what is—finding oneself in a powerless situation—reduces the length to which we stretch our resilience. Changing our self-talk from angry, sad, and helpless language to more compassionate and soothing statements allows our resilience to return to its original capacity more quickly.

For instance, getting a flat tire while out running errands can really mess with our day.

It is a powerless event. We cannot change what has happened—the tire is flat. Standing by the side of the road cursing, kicking the tire, and yelling at the sky about “bad luck” or “the world is out to get me” really stretches our rubber band of resilience by keeping us agitated and aggravated.

A more resilience-saving response would be to pause and take deep breaths. We stay calm and keep the stretch minimal. Recognizing we are in a powerless situation, accepting the moment, moves us more quickly out of anger or immobilization to taking effective action. Next, to address feelings of helplessness, we can change our internal self-talk to a more compassionate response.

For instance, instead of “Only bad things happen to me. I have the worst luck! This is going to ruin everything,” we might try, “Wow, this is unfortunate and challenging. Flat tires happen to all of us. There are other people dealing with this same problem. I can deal with this. Although it isn’t desirable, it is manageable.” The second set of phrases keeps us calmer, not stretching the band so tight, and returns us to calm and balance more quickly.

Bullying and insensitive personality traits of bosses and coworkers is another example of powerless situations.

None of us are successful changing someone else’s personalities. Instead, we find ourselves feeling helpless and hopeless. We become aware that we are telling ourselves things like, “What did I do to deserve this? What’s wrong with me that he is picking on me? There’s nothing I can do here so I just have to take it.”

Instead of these stories, tackle our feelings of helplessness with compassionate self-talk such as, “This is really difficult, and it hurts to be the target of unkind behavior. Anyone in my situation would feel the way I do. Many have difficult bosses and need to find a way to cope. I’m capable and able to find a way to take care of myself in this situation.” This self-compassionate shift brings relief, a lessening of self-blame, and healthier action and behavior.

Once we move out of our helpless state, we can be ready with assertive statements such as, “Please don’t raise your voice to me when discussing my work. It makes it very difficult to listen to the content of what you are saying. If you are willing to lower your voice, I am happy to discuss what I need to change to meet your needs.”

Anticipating and preparing for events that have a greater likelihood of happening can cut through our immediate sense of powerlessness and helplessness and lead us to take positive action sooner.

Traveling by air is a perfect example of a powerless event we too often find ourselves facing. Unexpected changes, delays or cancellations of flights leave us in a powerless situation. As individuals we cannot make the airline have more staff, more planes, less mechanical failure, and be invulnerable to weather patterns. Standing at the gate yelling at the customer service representative never results in the power to change those things.

Yet, we do not need to be helpless.

Using our breath to calm down, engaging self-compassionate statements, and being ready with rebooking and hotel apps to act immediately keeps our resilience intact.

Weather is another expected and sometimes unexpected, powerless situation. None of us have learned to turn tornados into soft spring breezes. Preparation works here, too, and is something that many of us use. Everything from carrying a raincoat and umbrella and closing windows before a rainstorm to having a NOAA weather radio, safe location to retreat to, and plan for reconnecting with loved ones after a natural disaster is preparation used to build and maintain resilience and confidence and lessen feelings of helplessness in the face of a powerless situation.

Lastly, making sure we take care of ourselves after powerless events is critical to regaining the elasticity of our resilience. Connecting with others who are going through or have been through similar situations reduces the sense of aloneness and isolation we feel after such events. Reaching out to others and combining resources for recovery efforts after natural disasters builds strength and community. Using self-help groups and psychotherapy to recover keeps us from staying stuck in a powerless situation with helpless feelings.

Taking time to mentally separate powerless situations from helpless feelings and thoughts improves our resilience capacity. Accepting what is right in front of us in the moment cuts through anger and resistance to what is happening and moves us to action more quickly. Tuning into our feelings and thoughts alerts us to the helpless state we find ourselves in, and compassionate self-talk moves us out of that state and into healthier and more effective action. Using these strategies keeps the elastic band of resilience from breaking.

Debra Smith resides in Marquette as a licensed clinical psychologist (PsyD, CMU) and certified mindfulness meditation teacher (UC Berkley Good Science Center). She is currently teaching mindfulness mediation, self-compassion, resilience for health care professionals, and worksite health to many populations, groups, and organizations. dls40@aol.com

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Senior Viewpoint: Heighten Your Health Span at Your Local Senior Center, Kevin McGrath

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An old college friend recently told me he was shocked to see I had written an article for Health & Happiness’s Senior Viewpoint column. But after we spoke just a short while longer, he acknowledged that we both are now in our sixties.

Aging, after all, is something that naturally occurs over time. Our minds often are reluctant to accept the changes in our bodies until something happens that brings the aging process to the forefront. Aging takes place in our bodies every day of our life, whether we are aware of it or not.
According to the Mayo Clinic, staying healthy for the maximum number of years and keeping age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s to a minimum is key to a full and rich long life.

This full and rich long life is considered your health span. Your health span differs from your life span, which refers only to how long you live. Health span refers to qualify of life as opposed to duration of life.

The old view of aging, as Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School puts it, was that our bodies became like an old car that just starts to wear out and break down. The new view he describes is that our bodies are much more complicated than a car. Experiments and research have now shown we have genes call surtuins, a promising development regarding aging.

These surtuin genes can make you fitter with proper exercise and diet. They also occur naturally in the body. More research still needs to be done on surtuins, but medical researchers are excited about their early results. Activating and enhancing these genes may be the health span-promoting way of the future.

The basic key to healthy aging is a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a variety of nutritious foods, practicing portion control, and including physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward healthy aging. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults include aerobic activity and strength training in their fitness plans.

The Mayo Clinic says starting a fitness program may be one of the best things you can do for your health. After all, physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight, and even boost your self-esteem. Plus, these benefits typically can be achieved regardless of your age, gender, or current fitness level.

Finding the fitness program that best suits your needs is essential. In my own case, I always was very active practicing Vinyasa yoga, playing in basketball and volleyball leagues, as well as participating in Zumba classes. I needed to find a way to keep the intensity up without overdoing it. Injuries can create a major setback, so it’s important to prioritize avoiding them.

If you’re in the area, a good place to start is the Marquette Senior Center, where they have a slew of options. Maureen McFadden, the center’s manager, can steer you in the right direction depending on your abilities and desires.

I’ve attended the Hi-Low Group Fitness class now for just over a year where instructors Paula, Lynn, Sandy, and Diane alternate higher impact aerobic routines with other cardio routines, mixing in weight training, other floor exercises, and stretching for an excellent hour-long workout. The class is held three times a week in Marquette’s Baraga Gym, which offers plenty of space for the twenty to forty individuals who attend regularly.

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Kay Mitchell

Regular Kay Mitchell, who’s been attending these classes for about ten years, keeps coming back because she likes the “great high-intensity workout.” She says the instructors are awesome and make exercise fun. I wholeheartedly agree.

Another reason Kay continues to attend week in and week out is the friendships she has developed with others in the group. Anyone who has ever been part of a team sport, military squad, or any group that works hard to achieve a goal being physically active can understand the sense of camaraderie that develops when people share a common purpose.

Another important factor to consider is brain aging. Brain aging can be traumatic not just for the individual but also his/her family and loved ones. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have become the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Dr. Lewis Lipsitz of Harvard Medical School claims reducing cardiovascular risk factors through mental and physical exercises is key to reduce or slow brain aging. Use it or lose it. Oftentimes as we grow older, we tend to slow down, but all the latest studies show this is the time to increase your activities in those ways that work for you. The priority has now become, as Dr. Sinclair puts it, “keeping people younger for longer as opposed to keeping people older for longer.”

Most people don’t want to live longer if they can’t do much of anything. If our quality of life is good and we can live longer too, that’s icing on the cake. So get active if you aren’t already. And a good place to start is your local Senior Center.

Kevin McGrath can be found step touching on the grape vine of life.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Creative Inspiration: Overcoming Limbo with Courageous Creativity, Roslyn Elena McGrath

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As we move into U.P. spring, it’s hard to know just how gradual this movement may be, how long a gray, muddied limbo between snowy wonders and warm blossoming may go on, and how many restrictions, challenges, and losses we may need to weather through this time. These possibilities alone might nudge us to descend into the doldrums.

But we don’t have to feel diminished by any of this. We can choose to expand our world by exercising our innate creative capacities. In my years teaching visual art in public schools, I saw over and over again how by a certain age, most kids would decide they were good at an art or not. That inner critic can loom so large that many who did not see themselves as “the artist,” “the singer,” “the musician,” etc., might never participate willingly in such activities again.

Do you have to excel at fishing to go fish? At cross-country skiing to go ski? Creativity is part of human nature, and much-needed to come home to ourselves, reduce stress, and increase self-expression and novelty. And if anything is going to combat the stay-at-home same-old same-olds, it’s novelty!

So no matter how rusty, shoddy, or splendid you may believe your creative abilities are, you can take some time this season, even for a few minutes at a time, to juice up your life through your creativity.

If you feel at a complete loss as to where to begin, check out what kinds of guided creative experiences might be available to you locally or online, and pick one that sparks your curiosity.
If you already know of something creative you enjoyed doing as a kid, consider exploring a do-able version of it that excites you now.

If you create regularly but feel you’re in a bit of a slump, try a new art form.

It’s likely to take you in a new direction and/or spice up your old one.

If any of these suggestions make you nervous, that might just indicate you’re on the right track! As artist Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage.”

If an act is truly creative, it’s a step into the unknown, so there will be plenty of opportunities for your inner critic or inner curmudgeon to try to hold you back. But you can decide which part of you is in charge, and go for it anyway, if only for the pure daring of it!

So, here are some solid do’s and don’ts to help you along the way:

DO create a regular routine of creative time. Don’t wait for inspiration to descend from on high. While it‘s wonderful when that happens, research shows habitual creative time not only increases how much you create, but also helps you generate new creative ideas. So if you’re not creating regularly, put it in your calendar, repeatedly, even if for short bursts of time after prepping in advance.

DONT try to critique or refine your creation at the outset. There will time for that later. The beginning is the time for the rough sketch, the raw draft, the stumbling notes. It’s the time when a field full of possibilities is being explored. Newly-born humans don’t walk, and newly-started projects don’t usually seem like masterpieces. Nurture this tender stage. And if you choose to share this part of your process, only do so with those you can trust one-hundred percent to cheer you on.

DO open up to new experiences. They can trigger new creativity, even if seemingly unrelated.

DO your best to open up your senses more fully to what’s around you. Listen, look, smell, feel, sense with greater attention, and you may find new inspiration even in familiar surroundings, as well as feel more fully present and alive.

DO shake things up if you get stuck–create in a new or even unusual location, do a repetitive non-creative task, or go for a walk. In fact, the connection between walking and creativity has been confirmed by research. According to a 2014 Stanford University Study, a person’s creative output goes up an average of 60% when walking, whether indoors or out. (And a little personal confirmation—ideas for this article came to me while out on a walk.)

DON’T become overwhelmed by a big idea or project you may have come up with. Chunk it down into manageable steps, and even micro steps if needed.

DO remember that everything man-made once existed in imagination only, and honor that magical capacity within yourself and others.

DON’T listen to the naysayers in your head or your life. Be bold, and put your attention on your freedom to choose to create instead.

DO remember that creativity includes more than fine art. It can also be how you put together a meal, a gift, a room, a schedule, resolve a challenge….

DON’T use the truism above to justify shying away from a creative activity that intrigues you.

DO hang around with other creative people. Creativity can be contagious!

DON’T imagine what “others” might think or say about your creation. It’s none of your business anyway. Your job is to nourish your creative faculties.

DO get enough sleep. The brain requires adequate sleep to process ideas and to function well. And the rest of you needs sleep to be able to carry out your creative ideas effectively.

Roslyn Elena McGrath supports fulfilling your innate potential through soul and intuition-based sessions, classes, and products at EmpoweringLightworks.com, and publishing Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Green Living: Finding Carbon Capture Champions, Steve Waller

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There are champion trees quietly lurking in your neighborhood and your favorite forest. You probably never noticed them. They usually hide in the background, obscured by summer leaves. You didn’t know how to see them but now, before they hide again, it’s time you find and appreciate them. Winter’s ending. Get outdoors before the leaves sprout. Take the kids with you. They can help.

I’m sure you’ve heard that trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Half of dry wood is pure carbon from CO2. When you see trees, you are seeing captured CO2. Trees are carbon! Ten pounds of dry wood contains 5 pounds of pure carbon from CO2 (the rest is mostly oxygen and hydrogen). The magic of chemistry changes pure black carbon to all the beautiful colors of wood. But no matter the warm woody color, 50% of dry wood, by weight, is carbon captured from atmospheric CO2. Wood floors, furniture, cabinets, even house framing, are all 50% carbon.

You don’t need any math, measures, botany, or a degree in silviculture. Carbon capture champions are simply the heavyweights! Find the absolute heaviest-looking trees in your neighborhood. Height or girth is less important. Total weight is what counts. Other trees may be taller, but carbon champions have mass. The absolute heaviest looking trees store the most carbon.

How much CO2 do trees remove from air?

Take the weight of a tree’s carbon and multiply it by 3.67. Example: 500 pounds of carbon (from 1,000 pounds of dry wood) times 3.67, means trees remove 1,835 pounds of CO2 for every 1,000 pounds of dry wood. A single champion tree could weigh 15,000 pounds—that’s a lot of captured CO2!

You can spot champions from a distance, hiding among average trees. Champion branches are exceptionally thick, wide, and dark, easy to see even when hiding in the shroud of wimpy, wispy, young, leafless, wanna-be trees. Kids can easily spot big bold trees. That’s why you bring kids along.

Once you’ve found a potential champion, your phone camera can record the shape, size, and GPS location. You can even add a caption, so name it! Kids can help with that too. Don’t ID it to scientific species. Give it a name that means something to you. What does it remind you of? “Big boy”? “Mother tree”? “Large Leaner”? “Uncle Fred”? “The Sentinel”? Use your imagination. Then keep looking. You’ll discover more. Which is the absolute heaviest? Your pictures can help you rank them in weight order. Compare with friends to find your local grand champion. It’s fun.

You may find that some of your heaviest trees aren’t in the woods.

Most, but not all, of the big forest trees have been logged. There are still some heavyweights hidden in protected areas, but your nearest champion could be a huge street tree in town, or an old farmyard tree that’s been growing for a century or more. Keep looking as you hike around and also as you drive your electric car. You never know when or where you’ll discover another champion.

It takes many decades to become a carbon capture champion. Recent studies found that big trees still capture carbon faster than young trees. That’s why carbon capture champions are so important for our climate future. Carbon champion trees are old but valuable, and need recognition. They capture and keep hundreds of years of CO2 out of the air. An old maple can store 300+ years of CO2.; white pine, 400 years; hemlock, 500 years; white cedars, over 1,000 years! Find the champions. Name them. Protect them. They’re helping you fight global warming.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Journey Toward Healing: COVID-19 & the Many Faces of Grief, Douglas C. Smith, MDiv., MA, MS

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Grief comes in many forms and can occur around multiple situations. COVID-19 has certainly illustrated that.

The first grief many experienced connected to COVID-19 was a VICARIOUS GRIEF (an empathic type of grieving; we started grieving because someone else was grieving). As we initially heard about what was happening in Wuhan, China and that nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, “our hearts went out” to the people in those places, grieving along with them in their grief.

We can still experience that VICARIOUS GRIEF as we continue to hear of the many people who have been hit by the pandemic: relatives, friends, neighbors, job losses, financial hardships, severe sicknesses, death. We can also feel VICARIOUS GRIEF in many non-COVID situations: when a friend of ours has had a spouse die; when a child in our neighborhood loses a pet; when a relative goes through a divorce. VICARIOUS GRIEF: we empathically grieve with people because they are grieving.

As COVID-19 spread, the next type of grief many felt was ANTICIPATORY GRIEF (we began to grieve in anticipation of possible future losses that might affect us and our loved ones). As COVID-19 went beyond Wuhan and Kirkland, spreading geographically and impacting more and more people, we began to fear how we and people we knew might be affected. We began to grieve our own or our loved ones’ possible loss of health or loss of jobs or other possible hardships. We had ANTICIPATORY GRIEF. And, even after the pandemic has been around as long as it has, we may still have feelings of ANTICIPATORY GRIEF as new strains of the virus arise. Will I be hit by the Delta variant? Will I be hit by the Omicron variant? Will I be hit by the next variant, whatever it might be labeled?

We can also feel ANTICIPATORY GRIEF in many non-COVID situations:

as people get laid off at our workplace, we might grieve our own possibility of being laid off; as we get a new dog after losing our previous one, we might already start grieving the eventual loss of our current dog; as we get older, we might grieve further loss of health and our eventual death. ANTICIPATORY GRIEF: grieving in anticipation of a possible future loss.

When COVID-19 eventually does strike us directly, in the many ways it can strike us, we experience GENERAL GRIEF (we grieve because we have lost something to which we have been attached). We might lose our social life, and we grieve that loss. We might lose our contact with our faith community, and we grieve that loss. We might lose our health, and we grieve that loss. We might lose our employment, and we grieve that loss. We might lose a loved one or a friend to death, and we grieve that loss. And, as long as the pandemic stays with us, we continue to accumulate those losses: more social restraints, more financial hardships, more deaths.

In non-COVID situations, we can also grieve many different types of losses—not just losses due to death: loss of innocence, loss of self-worth, losses due to substance abuse, losses due to sexual abuse, losses due to discrimination. GENERAL GRIEF: sadness and depression coming from any kind of loss.

We can also experience DISENFRANCHISED GRIEF during COVID. DISENFRANCHISED GRIEF (when I am feeling a deep grief over a loss that others do not take seriously or belittle). This can be experienced during the pandemic when I might take the pandemic earnestly, acknowledging all the great losses that have been occurring as a result of it, but others might say it’s nothing to worry about, it’s not that bad, or it’s just a “hoax” or “fake news.” When people do that, they are disenfranchising our feelings of sadness and depression, telling us that our feelings are somehow not valid or legitimate.

We can experience this DISENFRANCHISED GRIEF in many different non-COVID situations: when people who have never owned pets criticize the intensity of grief we feel when we have lost our pet (“it’s ‘just a pet,’ not a person”); when people minimize the loss of a child in utero (“you need to get over it; you can always have another one”); when people de-emphasize the grief of losing someone who is eighty years old or older (“you shouldn’t be sad: they had a full life”). DISENFRANCHISED GRIEF: having our genuine grief downplayed or belittled.

The final type of grief that many of us have probably felt during COVID is AMBIGUOUS GRIEF.

This is the result of grieving a loss for which there can be no closure or understanding. The classic example of AMBIGUOUS GRIEF during COVID is not being able to physically attend the funeral of a loved one because of restrictions related to the pandemic. But it can also be related to all the other lost opportunities that mark certain rites of passage: not being able to attend a marriage, or baptism or bar mitzvah, or graduation because of travel or gathering restrictions.

That AMBIGUOUS GRIEF can also take the form of an overriding/undefinable loss that defies our ability to put into words: the overarching cloud of loss that is felt throughout our society: reserved children wearing masks at bus stops to muted social gatherings. In non-COVID situations, AMBIGUOUS GRIEF can be seen in grieving someone who has Alzheimer’s who is no longer the person you’ve known throughout your life, or grieving one of your children who has become the victim of drug abuse. AMBIGUOUS GRIEF: grieving a loss for which there can be no closure or understanding, sometimes an overriding/undefinable loss.

COVID has brought to the forefront many forms of grieving, and these various forms of grieving might be with us for a long time, even long after the time in which we can get the physical effects of this pandemic under control. As individuals and as a society, our goals in these trying times must be to learn how to be survivors rather than victims during all of that loss.

The first step in that process has to be in identifying and naming our various forms of grief and loss. Once we identify and name those losses (as I have outlined above), we need to seek appropriate assistance in finding some healing. That healing can begin by simply openly sharing with others our grief. Healing can come through grief literature, healing can come through individual therapists and grief groups. We identify and name the losses. We then share the losses, and healing has begun.

Douglas Smith teaches a Grief Support Services certificate program through Northern Michigan University’s Department of Continuing Studies. He is the author of Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques for Healing Body and Soul as well as seven other books on counseling the dying and the grieving.

Excerpted from the Spring 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.