August 06, 2020
Stage 3 and 4 lockdown seems to have taken us all by surprise. We believed that if we all did the ‘right thing’ the first-time round, we would be at zero COVID. Life would be close to what it was. We were comforted in the power of the collective belief that ‘we were all in this together’. Things are very different this time around. Each of us may be experiencing different emotions regarding the current state of play.

Making the conscious connections between what is happening in the world and how we feel within ourselves may assist us to navigate this difficult time. That overreaction you may be experiencing when something goes wrong may represent the frustration/anger you hold regarding the increased numbers of COVID infections. Similarly, your child’s inconsiderate or self-centred moaning may be the manifestation of their feelings of insecurity and distress as they unconsciously and consciously worry about their safety, your safety, and their futures.

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Your child’s capacity to develop and grow internally is closely related to the kind of learning that we provide to them as parents. Providing them with information not only ‘about’ things in the world but demonstrating ‘how’ to experience and integrate that information into “their being” is paramount. How do we assist ourselves and our children to navigate our loss of normalcy; the fear of economic disaster and the loss of connections? David Kessler, a grief expert, was interviewed recently in the Harvard Business Review and he spoke about the function of ‘anticipatory grief’: that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain’1. This sort of grief can be understood as anxiety. His research has shown that to give meaning to anxiety provoking experience is the key to managing that anxiety.

Everyone has different feelings and thoughts. As Kesler says ’We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that, and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking’.

Making time and space, as a family, to discuss and acknowledge, rather than react to our feelings and experiences, is the key to accepting our current situation and finding a way through. Kessler again writes : “Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. Your work as a parent is to feel your sadness, fear and anger and whether someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.

Practicing compassion and focusing on the here and now is the key. When someone you love complains, try saying things that help them process their feelings like; I hear you, I understand, I’m sorry you are sad’2. Sometimes just listening; being present and physically responding will be the ‘gold’ that helps your loved one integrate, accept and move through difficult thoughts and feelings.

Resources:
1. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief
2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/special-matters/202004/quarantine-2020-its-ok-grieve
 
Written by Julie-Anne McMahon, MLC Counselling
 
 

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