empwr coping with grief kristina tripkovic
Photo by Kristina Tripkovic

It’s a heavy time, right? We are all feeling it. 

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown us all into an unfamiliar place. An unknown territory that we have not experienced before, filled with much grief. The loss we are feeling is not only due to the lives lost during this pandemic but also a mourning of how things used to be. 

In the MENA region, many are feeling deep grief as millions are living away from their home countries and loved ones during this time. The Middle East alone is home to about 23 million displaced migrants

In an attempt to capture and understand grief further, I conducted a questionnaire with a focus on individuals living in the United Arab Emirates gathering individual experiences during this uncertain time. Some of the responses will be featured throughout this article but will remain anonymous. 

What Is Grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. But in the current uncertain circumstance, it is no longer just a personal loss we are feeling but a sense of grieving on a global scale for our everyday life and the world we once knew. 

Why Are We Feeling Grief Harder Now? 

There is never a convenient time to lose someone, but the current circumstances can certainly make the experience even harder. Many during this time are also grieving alone. 

Grieving alone is also amplified in the MENA region as it has the largest youth population in the world, with more than half of residents under the age of 25 resulting in youths living away, unable to be with family and loved ones through the current situation and with over 29,000 UAE residents stranded abroad far from home, it can create even more difficulty.

Families are central to local culture in MENA societies and for those living with their families, grief is experienced heavily as a result of the strong family ties and intergenerational living, watching grandparents get sick or passing away can be incredibly challenging. 

There is also public grief many may be feeling that is described below:

Any Form of Loss Can Cause Grief.

Often when we think of grief, we associate it with only losing a loved one or someone close. But grief and loss come in many forms. 

Different Forms of Grief:

1. Grieving a sense of safety and stability

In a recent survey, it was found that the biggest fear of Abu Dhabi residents during these uncertain times was a loved one becoming affected by Covid-19. 

2. Grieving normalcy and routine

“It’s the mundane day to day I’m grieving the most, like my daily commute to work here in Dubai and simply grabbing a coffee on the way”, stated one of the responses from the questionnaire. This grief of normalcy and routine can be intensified in the MENA region as places of worship continue to remain closed affecting many across the region.

3. Grieving Cancelations, Celebrations, and Trips

Across the world, many celebrations have been canceled, such as graduations in the UAE turning into virtual ceremonies and brides going through heartbreak due to canceled weddings. 

4. Grieving Expectations and Goals for the Year

This element of grief was voted one of the top concerns for new graduates in UAE, as young Dubai graduate stated in the questionnaire; “I’m at a complete loss to where I see myself in the future now and my post-graduate internship was canceled. This whole process is really hard.”

5. Grieving Jobs and Sense of Purpose

Due to the current uncertainty, there have been many loss of jobs. It was estimated that coronavirus crisis could cause more than 1.7 million people in the Arab region to lose their jobs in 2020 

6. Grieving Physical Touch, Contact, and Connection

Results collected from the questionnaire found that loneliness was voted one of the biggest challenges many are facing in the current situation due to the loss of human physical connection.

Child floating red balloon
Photo by Karim Manjra

7. Grieving of Balanced Emotional and Mental Health 

This is certainly a difficult time for many. Most of the responses from the questionnaire admitted to a decline in their emotional and mental health since the pandemic. 

How to Cope with Grief?

Now that you understand why you might be feeling the way that you feel during this pandemic. Below are some ways to help support you during this time. 

1. Remove Your Expectations

Remove the pressure you have placed on yourself when it comes to your level of productivity and how much you want to get done. Take it easier if possible and allow yourself moments in your day to rest. You’re grieving after all.

2. Set Boundaries

This can be a difficult one but set boundaries on who gets access to you. People shouldn’t have access to you all day- even though you may be at home. This is a key element of looking after yourself. 

Remember that you can say still NO to things. This is not selfish and is needed for your mental health and will reduce your stress.

3. Remove the Guilt 

Feeling guilty does not help grief. We often dismiss our feelings but no matter what form of loss you’re currently experiencing- it is completely valid. You are not alone in this, everyone is going through their own experience. Avoid judgment on yourself. 

4. Focus on the Basics 

Restoration is crucial during grief. The normalcy of your daily routine has dramatically changed but make sure that you are still eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. 

5. Focus On Spirituality

It was found the number of people searching for the word ‘prayer’ on Google ‘skyrocketed’ in the past last month.

Additionally, almost all of the responses from the questionnaire agreed that having a sense of spirituality added comfort during this time of uncertainty. 

“Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose in our lives”- Brene Brown

6. Don’t Compare 

Due to the sudden uncertainty, this pandemic threw us all into, you may find that you might not experience grief the same way you might have previously done so under normal situations and that is completely OK. 

7. Be Helpful

Being helpful is a powerful antidote for hopelessness. This could be done in a variety of ways.

You can be helpful by simply checking in with loved ones, hosting virtual support meetings, giving back to charities, even a simple phone call/text to someone can go a long way. Kindness also helps to give your brain a boost of joy. 

The below video explains this phenomenon further. 

8. Find Meaning

It is important to acknowledge the grief you are feeling but it is also essential to find meaning in it, which needed for moving forward. This could be recognizing the certain values or lessons you’re learning during this pandemic; the extra time you have to pursue a passion project or a new hobby. It could simply just be a reminder of the sanctity of life or value of family-time. 

9. Seek Support from Loved Ones and Online Communities

We are extremely blessed to be living in a society where access to online resources and communities is much easier to seek out. Seek out online therapy, communities, and blogs and resources to help you find balance during this uncertain time. 

Holding hands strongly together
Photo by Wylly Suhendra

Final Thoughts 

In the midst of all of this loss and emotions, a powerful thing occurs when we finally name and acknowledge what we have all been feeling as ‘grief’. 

It provides us with a deeper understanding and allows us to be more compassionate and give ourselves permission to take it easier during this uncertain time.

The world needs serious healing and it starts with not denying ourselves the right to grieve.

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