Katie Myers from UKS Mobility shares advice on coping with grief and how care home workers can spot the signs during the COVID-19 pandemic
With the number of deaths in care homes increasing, this is going to be an especially difficult time for care home workers and they are likely to find themselves experiencing grief for the patients they have lost as well as the relatives of those patients. Even if you haven’t experienced a direct loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, you shouldn’t assume that what you’re experiencing isn’t grief.
The pandemic has changed many of the usual aspects of grieving, and the emotional hardships of being a key worker during this time may trigger feelings of grief and loss. As an essential worker, you might not feel like you’re able to put your own needs first however it’s vital that you do. Grief is a process, so recognising this and taking the necessary steps to help yourself is the best way to ensure you reach a point of acceptance.
Ways you might currently be experiencing grief
Shock, numbness or disbelief
Grief can cause your body to enter a state of shock. You might find it difficult to believe what’s really happened or to accept your loss, which might cause you to feel numbness or a lack of feeling.
Deep sadness is one of the most commonly experienced symptoms of grief, which might mean you feel frequently tearful and upset. Sadness often sets in after the point of denial, when you begin to understand the effect the loss you’ve experienced will have on your life.
Grief may cause you to feel frustrated and resentful. Anger can often manifest as a result of feeling like you’ve lost control. You might feel angry towards other people, a religious figure or towards yourself. You might even feel anger towards a loved one you have lost for leaving you.
Guilt is another normal symptom of grieving. If you have lost patients, you may feel like you could have done more or done things differently to save the person you have lost. You may feel guilty about your sadness and feel that you don’t have a right to be.
Sometimes, grief can manifest through physical symptoms such as:
- Changes in appetite
- Weakened immune system
- Tiredness or exhaustion
- Changes to your sleep pattern
- Muscle tension
Ways to cope with grief during this time
Remind yourself that your feelings are valid
First of all, you need to understand that your feelings are entirely valid in this situation. You might be feeling as though your grief is less important than being there for your patients at this time however, your needs are as important as theirs. Remember, everyone is reacting to the pandemic in a different way, and each experience is equally as valid. Try to acknowledge your feelings and reach a point of acceptance with yourself for feeling this way.
Take breaks when you need them
Sometimes, the symptoms and feelings that come with grief can be overwhelming, and this can make it hard to complete everyday tasks. As a key worker, a lot of pressure is being put on you right now to perform at your best. Remember you’re entitled to breaks from your responsibilities if you need them. If necessary, try and schedule your shifts to ensure you’re getting as many breaks during the working week as you need.
Reach out and connect
Grief may make you feel like you want to withdraw from people, however it’s important to resist this impulse. Connecting with those around you will help you find the emotional support you need to get through this difficult time. Lean on family and friends and try to open up to your colleagues about how you’re feeling. Each person will be able to offer a different perspective and will have their own way of offering support. Most importantly, every person will be able to empathise to an extent since everyone has let go of something as a result of the pandemic, whether a routine, social arrangement or person they usually gain happiness from. It’s very likely that someone you open up to will be feeling the same way.
Try different forms of self-care
There are many forms of self-care available to you, whether it’s meditation, exercise, yoga, reading or crafting. Spend some time discovering which activities are best at helping you to switch off and recharge and then try to incorporate these activities in your daily routine. Carving out time for self-care each day will help you to approach your professional work in a clearer and happier state of mind and maintain a sense of balance in your life.
Allow yourself time
Grieving is a process and whilst grieving you might experience a variety of different symptoms; you might go through periods of anger, sadness and denial. It can be frustrating to feel as though you’re not able to recover from your grief as quickly as you want to. This process is necessary to reach a place of acceptance, so try and see each day as a step further towards being at peace with what you have lost.
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