Picture source: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/from-grief-to-gratitude/
It is that time in which the new year begins soon, which opens up to plenty of holidays and working people clearing their leave. New Year, Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, the list grows on as the calendar pages flip.
However, before the curtain closes on 2021, we are facing added obstacles, not only from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the recent national flood disaster along West Malaysia. Despite more and more people across the globe getting vaccinated, borders opening up and everyone transitioning towards the endemic stage, we still have the Omicron variant threat and influx of patients as more people mingle and travel. Regarding the flood, the worst hit area was in Selangor, which left casualties, many people displaced and homes lost. The flood also exposed both survivors and volunteers to higher risk of COVID-19.
While Malaysia is no stranger to floods, the natural disaster can leave a heavy impact on the mental health of survivors. According to Public Health England, floods can leave survivors facing stressors of many factors, which are:
- Family and Social
- Grief and trauma
- Media Exposure
With many losses and challenges in livelihoods, many may be spending the upcoming holiday season in grief and turmoil. Grief is also not solely tied to death, but may include different types of losses, such as relationships, familiar routine, safety and security, items that bring meaning to us, etc. While grief is a universal human response to loss, the reactions and symptoms may vary from person to person, culture to culture. We are more susceptible to fatigue, anxiety and illnesses due to the fact that our limbic system got activated and we get into fight-flight-freeze-feign response. This can heighten our vigilance for fear of further loss and lowers our immune system. There is no specific timeline to grief, but we can make space for ourselves to mourn alongside the holidays. According to grief expert David Kessler, oftentimes it is not grief we are avoiding, it is the pain. While understandably experiential avoidance can be a natural instinct, more often than not when not addressed, many mental health issues like PTSD, depression and anxiety may come up. Rather than avoiding the pain, Kessler advised us to lean into it. Grief can be an opportunity to process the pain, and honour the love we have, before the loss and in continuation after.
To cope with the grief, Kessler also advised that we can first externalise it. Funerals are one of the many examples of rituals that allow us to express our grievances. To determine the way to do it, we could first pick a time and place. Next, the activity can be up to you. It can be getting together with others to mourn collectively. It can be a prayer before having a holiday meal. It can be checking in with someone who has been in isolation. It can be an online activity such as a social media tribute or video call with others. The topic of sharing can be not only of sadness, but also remembrance of happy and funny moments, whichever that is appropriate of your culture.
Kessler mentioned that the holidays are also a good time to evaluate which parts of them that you enjoyed or needed change in ritual, as they bring different meaning to everyone, what more when we are in Malaysia, a melting pot of multiple cultures and faiths. It is okay if you need to cancel any holiday plans for space to mourn. For example, in some Chinese tradition, those in mourning such as close family members or spouses of the deceased might not partake in celebrations in respect to the deceased and those grieving.
End of the day, whether it be the holidays or funerals, these events are also opportunities to bring people together to connect and support one another. It is okay if you need space and time to grieve. It is okay if you need more support than usual to cope with the losses. We grieve because we love. No matter which faith you subscribe to, it is never too late to have new beginnings, whether at the end of 2021 or late into 2022. If you’re facing the following above, know that you are not alone. Skybi will have a free webinar on Self-Love through Gratitude and Forgiveness as we journey into the new year 2022. To sign up, click on here Self-Love through Gratitude and Forgiveness Free Webinar
If further processing and exploring of the grief is needed, Skybi also provides counseling services. Wishing everyone a safe and blessed transition into 2022.