With the easing of lockdown and travel restrictions across the world, it seemingly appears that the worst of the second wave of COVID-19 is over. Reports of tourists thronging hill stations and the reemergence of vacation posts on social media are a reminder of how terribly short public memory can be. But unlike what people’s Instagram stories would have us believe, the trauma of the second wave has permanently impacted many Indians, leaving them to deal with the grief and heartbreak of losing loved ones and recovering from their own severe illnesses as the world rapidly moves on. Re:Set spoke to Himani Kulkarni, therapist and co-founder of Chaubara x Instrength, a mental health organization, on how people can cope with feelings of anger, grief and helplessness as they venture back out again.
Remember that your anger is valid
It’s natural to feel anger when you see people ignoring safety protocols and vacationing while you grieve the loss of loved ones who passed away from COVID, Kulkarni said. This anger is not just towards others but also at what has happened and how people responsible for handling the pandemic did not do enough. A lot of this helplessness also stems from watching people do things that they were previously advised to avoid, and a feeling of betrayal that your loss is being invalidated. “It is a cruel reminder of what has happened. An important part is to acknowledge that this is a very real loss and anger that you feel, and realizing that while you can ask people to follow restrictions, other people’s actions are beyond your control,” Kulkarni told Re:Set.
Dealing with the anxiety of going outside
With things opening up again, returning to ‘normal life’ can be stressful and debilitating when you’re still processing trauma caused by the second wave. “The anxiety is not coming from what can happen, but from what has already happened. It’s not anticipation, but a very real circumstance that a person has faced,” she said. “So, don’t try to push yourself into making decisions and dealing with it all at once. Do things that make you feel safe, whether it’s the vaccine or taking precautions even if it’s a little more than what others are doing. Your worry and fear is very real,” Kulkarni added that it’s important to not judge your anxiety based on what others are feeling and doing.
Grief takes time
“With grief, any expectation of pushing it to get over rarely works because your life has changed monumentally and this will take time. These emotions are coming from a place of trauma and your body will take time to feel safe because there is a lot of shock involved,” Kulkarni noted. It’s OK if the other person’s pace doesn’t match yours, but keeping in contact with people who can at least halfway understand your pain does help. “Making sure that there are things you can focus on for yourself and doing those with people who make you feel safe, whether it’s a friend, therapist or support group, can help you bring yourself to the present,” she told Re:Set.
Progress is not linear
“Any sort of recovery or dealing with grief is not linear. On some days you feel like you have dealt with it and you’re doing OK but on other days it could take up a lot more of your time,” Kulkarni said. If you or someone you know is dealing with this kind of grief, the best thing is to not rush into tackling the grief and the pace of healing.