Searching for Meaning, One Year Later
by Jill Ceder LCSW
One year later, we continue to ride the rollercoaster of emotions caused by Covid-19. We are all impacted by the pandemic. It has been called a “collective experience.” Most collective experiences bond people together — in joy or in sadness. This one has us withdrawing not only in physical distance, but in emotional and mental distance as well.
We learned from hearing the stories of others that there were so many types of loss. Many experienced loss of a loved one, or loss of a business. Others experienced losses that are hard to describe in words — a loss of certainty or security. Maybe it was about when you would see your parents again in person or when your kids would see their teachers. There was a loss of freedom and motivation for teenagers and 20-somethings; a loss of what they thought could or would happen. Maybe you felt a sadness or slowness that no one would recognize as loss. But this deep, raw, confusing feeling that we might not recognize is grief.
It is very difficult to reach out for connection when we feel lost, confused or are dealing with changes. Maybe we feel no one will understand our unique challenges. But we don’t need to do it all alone. We all need support and need to remind ourselves that things are less scary when we go through them together.
Alongside all of our new fears about health piling up since March 2020, we now have fears lurking in the shadows; fears hiding deep inside us. Those are the ones we need to learn to recognize. Your triggers, your unique worries that make a bed inside of you. If you are scared to find those, you are not alone.
What if admitting it makes it real?
What if my thoughts grow so big they take over?
What if you can never escape it?
Those are thoughts. That’s all. Thoughts →Feeling→Behavior.
Getting stuck in the thought is where we get trapped in the cycle. The goal is to get to the emotion. Give yourself permission to feel the force, depth, and range of your emotions. They are neither good or bad; they are emotions. They don’t need a label. Acknowledging and feeling an emotion is where you are released from the hold of your thoughts. There is purpose behind each emotion. For example, fear protects you, sadness helps you focus on what matters and anger motivates you into action. We should want to find that purpose.
The pandemic forced us into an awareness we were not emotionally ready to face. But now that we are here, let’s grab it and grow with it. Covid-19 has created a unique opportunity to look inward and reflect on our personal experiences. Some days we are more aware of how vastly our lives have changed; some days we are more present or more accepting. Riding the waves of your feelings will help uncover what we fear, what we avoid, what we value, and where we find meaning.
Finding meaning is the 6th stage of grief; the stage we should actively embrace one year later. This opportunity to reflect and find meaning is essential to our journey. It is where self-awareness is developed and in that, we are able to calm ourselves, foster mindfulness and find connection.
How does one “find meaning?” If you are thinking it sounds abstract and fluffy, try these questions. The answers will require some real thinking and a good look inside yourself.
- What do I most fear?
- What do I most fear losing?
- Has anything brought me comfort or joy?
- Has the meaning been there all along and I hadn’t seen it?
- How can I create meaning now?
Perhaps we can emerge from this crisis knowing as much about ourselves as we do about the virus. When we can reflect on what we have lost and our unique experiences, we can figure out the personal meaning this journey has held for us. We can hold our loss and love together, and still find our meaning. Or maybe we need to create a new or different meaning in our lives. It is then that we can start to heal.