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Clinical psychologist says it’s important to grieve during coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Dr. Donna Rockwell says it’s important to process how life has changed

DETROIT – Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many people are experiencing loss -- the loss of loved ones, of jobs and of life as we knew it.

Our daily routines and the events we look forward to are gone, and it’s important to process how life has changed and the grief we feel as a result, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell.

“People in life expect to grieve for someone who has passed away or divorce or life change,” Rockwell said. “We’re not used to grieving through something we have no control (over), like a global pandemic.”

Click here to visit Dr. Rockwell’s website.

Rockwell said we process this grief by simply feeling it and realizing we have no control.

“Then, find the things we do have control over,” Rockwell said. “We do have control over whether we can call family members and fell a sense of love over the phone. We do have control over how we can help and pitch in by not going out or by wearing a mask when we do.”

She said when we feel that sense of control, our grief lessens.

“It’s really important to allow ourselves to grieve the life we knew before the pandemic and the life we know,” Rockwell said. “We have to be honest with ourselves. Two weeks from today we’re not going to get back to the way it was, so it’s really helpful to look for a new normal, what life will look like, how to create the best out of that new life and not hoping for yesterday to return.”

She said we should look out for the negative effects of trauma -- distressing thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

“It’s important to understand thoughts are really not all that weighty,” Rockwell said. “Thoughts can be looked at like passing clouds. The fear thought is coming up and simply notice and let it go. Come back to the present moment of what you’re doing right now, of feeding your child or looking out the window at a beautiful day or taking a walk, but to return our thoughts from the distressing ones back to the present moment.”

Rockwell said one of the things that might change is having stronger and deeper relationships with the people in our lives. Oftentimes we can take people for granted, but this experience will encourage us to feel and express appreciation for each other.


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