At Evan J. Strong, we are committed to supporting the families we serve, as well as our community during this unprecedented time. Check here daily for resources and information.
Spring has finally arrived! Naturally, we all want to get out, get some fresh air, and enjoy the beautiful weather. Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness. It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.
The question is, how can we do that safely in the COVID-19 era without putting ourselves and others at risk? The City of Calgary has provided some rules and guidlines to help limit the spread while enjoying the outdoors.
City parks and pathways
While playgrounds are closed, Calgary parks and off-leash areas remain open for responsible public use. If you are using a park or pathway, please plan ahead and practice these guidelines:
Safer use of off leash areas
Use of play fields
Safe yard work and gardening
When gardening outside, here are a few basic rules for physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In short, you can and should enjoy the outdoors, just practice good social and physical distancing while you're doing it. For more information on the rules and guidelines within the City of Calgary visit the city website.
Coronavirus is disrupting mourning rituals everywhere, with gatherings currently restricted to less than 15 people. Grieving, already a tumultuous and lonely affair, has become even more solitary.
"Some kinds of deaths are obviously much harder to deal with than others," says Dr. M. Katherine Shear, a psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and the director of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University. The Center for Complicated Grief helps mental health professionals and everyday people learn about — and ultimately treat — complicated grief, which is an intense grief following a death that doesn't allow the person to move forward in their life.
The pandemic forces a grieving person to deal with every single thing that is already hard to deal with all at once, Shear explains. Deaths during the age of coronavirus, for example, often mean loved ones are dying without their families by their side, either due to hospital or nursing home restrictions on visitors or social distancing measures.
Dwelling on a loved one dying alone can be a source of mental anguish for the remaining family members, Shear explains. "You can't stop thinking about how awful that is," she says.
People who have lost a loved one to coronavirus specifically can also get trapped by guilt, a symptom of complicated grief. The virus might infect a whole household but kill one person, says Shear. The remaining family members could feel guilty that they are still alive, a feeling that can crop up even if you don't live in the same home.
"Survivor guilt has to do with the feeling that you shouldn't enjoy your life," says Shear.
Anxiety is another symptom of grief. And Shear explains grief can be exacerbated by the panic many people already feel during this pandemic.
If a loved one died from coronavirus, it can also be easy to get mad at elected officials' lack of response or seemingly slow response to the pandemic and dwell on "what if" scenarios, like "What if there were more ventilators and my loved one could have survived?" explains Shear.
Sheir offers the following 6 suggestions to support a grieving loved one during the coronavirus pandemic.
Plan a funeral or memorial
For some, funerals and memorials can provide solace and, perhaps, a sense of closure for the deceased's loved ones. But in the age of coronavirus, these events aren't possible.
"We can't get together to honor them...and funerals are off the table as well," says Shear. "I think that's one of the really tough things, we don't have that ritual which is helpful." But as the virus has forced us to conduct our lives over video chats and FaceTime, so too have funerals and memorials moved online. You can start with an online memorial and help the bereaved plan for a traditional ritual to be held at a later date.
The first step in planning an online memorial or funeral, is asking the bereaved person if they want to hold one. If they say yes, you can also offer to help plan so they have less on their plate. If possible, enlist a few people who weren't as close to the deceased person to assist, too. They likely won't be as overwhelmed with grief and can pitch in more effectively, explains Shear.
Share happy memories
If you have joyful memories of the person who died, don't keep them to yourself, says Shear. This can be as simple as sending an email to the people who were closest with the deceased person, detailing the memory that brings a smile to your face. If you decide to do this, triple check that everyone you're contacting has been notified of the death before you hit send.
Or, if you feel comfortable, you can email to ask if it's OK to talk on the phone or video chat. People should feel free to use the full range of their creativity to share memories of the person who died, says Shear. Electronic collages can be a good option as you can't be physically near the person but you can go as low or high tech as you want.
If they want and are ready, relive joyous times when the person was alive as it can offer a bright spot during these dark times. That said, happy memories won't resolve someone's grief and you shouldn't try to make a person's grief disappear, says Shear. Avoid changing the subject if they want to talk about the person they lost or saying "[insert name] is in a better place," as it minimizes the pain they are feeling. Instead, let them cry or talk about their loved one until they come to a natural stop.
"After we've expressed a lot of emotions, we generally feel some relief and we are ready to talk about something else," says Shear.
Avoid burdensome requests
Your first instinct when someone you know experiences a death might be to ask how you can help. But that can actually be counterproductive as it makes a demand on them, says Shear.
It's hard to ask for help, especially when we're grieving as we don't necessarily know what we need or want, explains Shear.
Instead, you can send a note saying "I'm thinking of you," and offer to hop on a call to talk. Make it clear there's no pressure to chat but you're there if they want to, suggests Shear.
E-cards are another way to lift someone up. If possible, you can also send them a meal as the CDC says there's no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through food.
After someone in your life loses a loved one, it's easy to send a condolence note and then not stay in touch. Avoid this. It's crucial to remain in their lives.
This can feel awkward but it doesn't have to be. Staying present can be as simple as writing a text that you're also feeling sad about the loss if true, says Shear. The most important thing is to make sure they can still feel your presence from far away, especially during this lonely time.
How often and what you say depends on how close you are to the person, says Shear. If you talked with them every day before the death, continue it. You should also follow their lead. If they seem uncomfortable with your check-ins, take that as a sign to reduce or stop them. On, the other hand, if the person says they love talking with you, keep it up.
Provide mental health support if you can
Grief is a complicated beast and we all process loss differently. When my mom died years ago, I actively avoided grieving, and I didn't know where to turn when I was finally ready to process her death.
Shear suggests passing along websites such as Modern Loss and What's Your Grief to people who are grieving. Modern Loss helps people talk candidly about loss with essays exploring grief. What's Your Grief offers guides and resources (like e-courses and webinars) on issues surrounding death and grief. What's Your Grief, for example, has a blog post about what to do if you can't physically be with a family member who is dying.
The person may also struggle with the suffocating news cycle that is almost exclusively focused on coronavirus. They should be mindful of their intake and only consume enough to be educated about the risks that affect them and their community. You can also suggest activities, like a movie you can watch together from afar, which can help take their mind off scary headlines, says Shear.
Virtual support groups can also be helpful to work through grief, she explains. Or you can suggest they reach out to individual grief therapists if a group setting doesn't feel right. But they should ask therapists they are vetting how long they've worked with patients who've dealt with grief as this can help narrow the search.
Plan for the future
Don't forget that one day we will be past this crisis, even though the timeline's impossible to predict right now.
Though you don't want to gloss over someone's sadness, you can direct their energy in a positive direction. For example, you can mention something they love to do that isn't possible during coronavirus and say "I can't wait until we can go [insert activity] again," suggests Shear. Of course, you want to wait for an appropriate moment and not interject if they're expressing their emotions about the person they lost.
You can also say you look forward to one day coming together in person to honor the memory of the deceased. This small step can help plant a seed of hope in their mind for better days ahead.
Adapted from an article by SIOBHAN NEELA-STOCK available on Mashable