About 6 months ago, my next door neighbor brought some old toys over for my children. Mixed in with some old beach toys and trains, was a little can with a picture of some mixed nuts and the label “Nuts” on it. My kids came running into the room with the can and asked me to open it. As soon as I popped open the lid, I was hit in the face with a long snake-like object! Clearly, this was a prank and not a real can of mixed nuts. My kids then asked me to prank them, so I set about stuffing the snakey object back into the can. It was hard work. I had to stuff and stuff and stuff it down, and then immediately push the lid on to contain it inside. We took turns stuffing and pranking, and then stuffing and pranking some more. It was really fun to see them enjoy such a classic prank!
The prank can of “Nuts” reminds me a lot of our emotions and how we often handle them. When difficult things happen in our lives, most of us tend to begin stuffing down our emotions. We do this because we either don’t want to deal with them at the time, or we feel bad about feeling them. Sometimes we tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel that way” or “I don’t want to feel that way right now” and stuff those emotions down, deep inside. Then, we may tell ourselves things like, “I need to pick myself up and do better” or “I have to be strong for this person or that person” and we stuff them down a little bit more. Just like the prank snake that popped out of the “Nuts” can, our emotions eventually will bubble up and pop right on out, often in the form of anxiety or depression.
During this time of COVID-19, many of us have become pros at stuffing our emotions. COVID-19 has brought with it a great deal of loss. Many employees have lost their jobs and back in the spring, the seniors lost their in-person graduations. Weddings have been cancelled and postponed, children have lost time with aging parents as they have kept their distance; students lost classroom time with their teachers. Other people lost vacations they had planned and businesses they had built. Others have lost the lives of friends and family members to this awful virus. COVID has taken much from us personally and collectively, as a society. What do we do with these emotions? Many of us stuff them down, telling ourselves that we need to just keep going or that we shouldn’t feel this sense of loss. The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling want you to know that you most certainly should feel these emotions, that you should feel this sense of loss.
The sense of loss that we are feeling is grief, and the worst thing that you can do when dealing with grief is stuff it down or ignore it. Instead, we need to acknowledge it and accept it. We need to take time to dwell in the sadness and loss. It is ok to feel down or sad or angry at what is going on in our world right now. It is alright to be disappointed and discouraged about this virus and what it has taken from us. Acknowledge these feelings and accept them. COVID is here and it is going to be around for a while. It is okay and perfectly healthy to feel these emotions of loss. Accepting these emotions is the first step towards healing.
After we acknowledge and accept the way we are feeling, then we can move forward focusing on what we do have. We acknowledge what we have lost and then focus on what we have. Maybe you lost a vacation you had planned, but you can spend the week doing local outdoor activities that you have never tried instead. A dear friend of mine lost her father to COVID-19, but that loss has prompted her family to move in with her mother for the summer, and they are making special memories that they otherwise would have never made. What are some areas of your life where you are feeling a sense of loss and grief? Acknowledge those feelings, accept the loss, and then look for what you do have and what positive changes the loss is moving you towards.
This is a hard time, and if you are struggling with grief, loss, or how to handle your emotions, please reach out to us. The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling are here to help you. This is a time that no one should go through alone, and we would love to be a support system for you. Call us at 912-319-5552 if we can help!