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Letting the Caged Bird Free: How to Virtually Cope with Grief

Hero Image courtesy of Pinterest.

Many are experiencing grief during COVID. You are not alone. We recognize your strength this time and aim to encourage you to take that leap of faith towards healing. 

We will walk you through these holistic coping mechanisms:

  • Detecting the Signals of Grief
  • Healing Individual and Collective Greif
  • Coping With Non-Death Related Feelings of Grief
  • Other Ways to Find Help

If I was a Bird

Ode of Freedom

“You got me caught in 

A stormy odd world that drains

And I beg to see truth and promises 

You made to me

Now we’ve come so far 

But my visions of happiness 

With you in my life 

I’m afraid and confused

If I was a bird I’d fly

If I was a bird I’d fly away

Spread my wings so I’d escape.”–If I was a Bird, Floetry

Navigating grief feels like a cage forming around you. People may not visually see what you are going through but it becomes a heavy load that weighs down your wings. However, it does not have to feel this way. You may be seeing and emoting shades of blue, but know that you are not alone. Pandemic-related deaths, deaths of people because of the political climate, or deaths due to natural factors may affect you. 

Let yourself fly free from this emotional cage and walk in wholeness through these tips of navigating grief as a result of individual and collective trauma.

Ellis Wilson's painting that depicts lush greenery as the bisector of two lines of people. The bottom line looks like people dressed in black and white  and the top looks like a funeral procession in black.
Here, Ellis Wilson, depicts Funeral Procession. It shows a community in mourning and in celebration simultaneously.  You may feel the swirling cyclone of grief but there are many resources to help you get free and that this is something experienced by the collective. Image courtesy of Artstor.

Navigating Individual Grief

Signs of Grief

Grief comes in varying symptoms. According to Ercilla Glean, a health coach with a Masters in Psychology and current Masters of Public Health candidate at Emory University, there are many visible signals of grief. Some of these signs include: anxiety, anger, loneliness, isolation, sadness, uncertainty, guilt (responsibility for the loss), difficulty concentrating, and low self esteem. 

While these are some of the symptoms of grief, the steps are non-linear. According to Dr. Lara Krawchuk, a specialist in coping with grief, many expect grief to come and go smoothly from acceptance to healing, but it comes in waves. Oftentimes, people who grieve begin to think about what this loss means to them and how it affects daily life. This stage is known as the meaning-making process and that is natural in the process of grieving.

Different Kinds of Grief

During COVID, there are different types of grief that occur. You may be experiencing grief of losing your job, security, going through a divorce, or even losing a loved one. While these are different types of grief, they are all forms of grief that you may be dealing with. The grief of losing a job is called a “living or ambiguous loss” because of the lack of closure that these situations create for you.

Know that your healing process should not have a strict timeline on it. It is important, in any form of grief that you go through, to be honest with yourself and others of how you are feeling in the moment.

A cubist depiction of birds in flight with purples, yellows, greens, and maroons.
Let’s all find hope in togetherness and let the bird fly free. Image courtesy of Art Hive.

Begin Your Path Towards Wholeness

Take heart, because when you lose someone or something, look for that voice in other people and circumstances. For instance, if someone loses a mother or mother figure, notice the other figures like that in your life. If you lose your job, focus on the time you get to spend with family. Try your best to focus on the positive.

In this time, self-care is imperative and often an act of resistance and self-preservation during this pandemic. Instead of forgetting to take care of your mental health, prioritize it and lean into your own healing process.

These are some of the things you can do to make strides towards renewal:

  • Seek Out and Accept Help
  • Virtual Therapy
  • Give Yourself a Break
  • Support Groups
  • Give yourself Some Time
  • Spend Quality Time With Friends and Family
  • Exercise
  • Try a New Hobby
  • Limit Social Media Consumption
  • Continue Your Spiritual Practices
  • Be Creative by Expressing Grief Through Writing and Art
Woman coddling a child. The brushtrokes in a blue green color show Picasso's blue period.
Pablo Picasso’s Mother and Child represents an artwork from his Blue Period. He used a color palette to express his emotional state. While this may have been a turbulent time, it did not last long because afterwards emerged his Rose Period and his subject matter brightened. Image courtesy of Picasso.

Dealing With Collective Grief

COVID, Ahmaud Arbery, and Instances of Collective Grief

During COVID-19, it is common to be absorbed in collective grief. The social media scene produces thousands of images, videos, words, and virtual personas that can affect your mental space. The death of people due to COVID on social media, the messages of hate, and economic loss all over the media causes collective loss.

Ms. Glean explains the psychological concept of collective grief by saying, “We, as humans, long for connection with others. That connection can be physical or emotional, but we don’t want to feel that we are alone in this world. We grieve collectively in that moment because we’ve all lost something or someone that connects us all together.” Overall, one death or sense of loss can ripple throughout entire communities. The way to identify and appropriately grieve this loss is by checking-in with how you react to social media consumption and pinpointing the emotional triggers that you have.

Collective grief occurs particularly in ethnic, racial, religious, or other groupings of communities. As an Afro-Latina mental health professional, Ms. Glean discusses the current events related to racial trauma that affect people’s mental space. She explains, “For People of Color (POC), when events happen like the killing of Ahmaud Arbery or reports of ICE losing immigrant children in their custody and those in custody dying due to inhumane conditions, it’s important to lean on each other during that time. Coping with collective grief can look different for everyone. It may be on a larger scale such as going to a rally/protest, but it can also be more personable such as journaling, meditating and praying. “

Boys walking by holding each other's shoulders.
Let’s get through this together–hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm metaphorically because in community all things are possible. Image courtesy of Tennessee State University.

Learn More About Resources to Help With Grief

Therapy and Finally Freeing the Caged Bird

Lastly, make sure that you are going through this process so that you can spread your wings and fly above the issues of pain at this time. Some helpful resources include finding a therapist in your area, GRW, virtual counseling specialized in healing from grief, and for children in the Pittsburgh area that lost loved ones, check out The Highmark Caring Place. If you know someone who is grieving, make sure to affirm them even by saying, “I see you and I’m here for you.”