Behind starburst eyes

Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Emotional Health

We live in Ontario, Canada and our premier has officially declared a state of emergency this morning. This means in addition to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools being shut down for the next 3 weeks, now our daycare centers, restaurants (dine in portion), bars, cinemas, libraries, museums, major venues such as the science centre, and recreation centers are all shut down until at least April.

We homeschool our 3, but my two stepdaughters attend public school at their mother’s insistence. So this changes some things for us, but not all things. Obviously daycare facilities being closed doesn’t effect us. However, everything else being closed does.

One of the ways all of these closures effect us is through fear and anxiety. My youngest son has asthma and has had to be on oxygen and nebulizers in the past, so I am in a heightened state of anxiety. But I’m not the only one, my children feel it too. Not just through me, but also because news of the virus is everywhere and both kiddos understand the potential implications for their brother, and he understands the implications for himself. To that end we have been working a great deal with the concepts of fear, anxiety and powerlessness.

Acknowledgement of Emotions:

We’ve spoken about how scary it can be to feel like you’re powerless in a situation, and how to work with that feeling to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm us (a thing I am struggling with myself as well).

Then, I attempt to teach them how to work through their scary thoughts. We talk about their feelings, how their real and valid first. But also that even though their valid, we don’t have to be ruled by them. We can focus on the things we HAVE done, the things we ARE doing, and the things we CAN do during this time.

Breathing Techniques:

Once I’ve validated their emotions we do breathing exercises. Five deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm the nervous system down and allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online (center of logic and reasoning).

Mindfulness Exercises:

Mindfulness exercises such as finding 5 things they can see, touch, and hear can also help to refocus on calming the mind enough to work through any scary thoughts.

Positive Actions:

Finally, we focus on something positive, such as on gratitude, love, giving to others, or constructive actions. We do this because in allot of ways our thoughts are like roads, the more frequently their used, the more deeply they become entrenched and at times like this we NEED the positive perhaps more than ever.

For one child, focusing then on how grateful they are for the healthcare professionals or our ability to have things delivered to lessen our chances of exposure is helpful.

For another it’s expressing love through acts of kindness such as offering to play another siblings favorite board game or reading a book to a younger sibling.

For another it’s writing a card to send to someone they can’t see in person right now, or walks in the conservation area to be in nature.

For me, it’s constructive physical acts that help, for example organizing cupboards and labelling jars with our supplies or sorting the kids clothes for donations (I’ll wait to donate, but I’m happy to pop bags of donations in a closet ready to go once this is all over). Each person is unique, so choosing the positive actions that work best for them should be specific to them.

Leave a comment »

Life without Joy

I finally told Mr. N about his cousin Joy on Friday afternoon. I hadn’t told him sooner because I just didn’t know how to tell him. But when he asked me who the flower in the kitchen was for I couldn’t put it off any longer. I stumbled and swallowed and began. I told him the flower he saw was for him. It was his good-bye flower from Joy. He wanted to know where she was and why she was saying good-bye. A dear friend had told me what she had said to her daughter and I went with that. I told him that Joy was in the sky now, and that she couldn’t stay any longer with his Auntie and Uncle. He told me he was sad, and that he’d miss her. I cried then, I tried not to, but I couldn’t stop the tears from falling as I looked at my youngest boy so serious and sad as he said “But I can’t see her there” I told him I understood how sad it was to not be able to see her again, but that she’d always be watching over him and she’d always love him and that he could talk to her and she’d hear him just as she always heard his heart.

I know he understood because later on as day turned to night he became quite upset and when I asked him what was wrong he told me “It’s dark outside, it’s dark in the sky, Joy’s afraid of the dark” I promised him that where Joy was it wasn’t ever dark, it’s always bright and filled with love and light. He looked dubious, but nodded and walked away to play with his cars. He comes up to me at various times and says things like “I miss her” “I want to see her” “Why can’t her stay with Auntie and Uncle anymore?” I try my best to answer his questions, and offer him comfort, but I’m struggling to understand the answers myself. So mostly I just tell him it’s okay to be sad and I hug him.

Mr. C has known since the day she passed away that she’s no longer on this plane with us. He’s built a dozen or more snowmen in the backyard, and destroyed each one when the anger overwhelms him at losing her. He told me he does it because I say he’s not allowed to hit other people, and he doesn’t know how else to get the pain and anger out. He’s so much more somber, his quick smile is missing from his beautiful face, a shadow haunts his eyes at all times. He’s withdrawn into himself more, his natural exuberance just isn’t there. I can’t remember the last time I had to remind him to be more quiet.

For the last week my husband has been my rock, he holds me every time I break down, and lets me cry as long as I need, he never rushes me to feel better. He cooks and remembers to do the things my mind can’t seem to hold onto right now. He promises me that it’ll get easier, and that the wounds her passing have left will lessen, they will eventually become easier to deal with. But in just a couple of hours he has to go back to school. Reading week is officially over and I’ll have to do all the mom things I haven’t been really doing since we lost Joy. The idea of this makes me worried. I don’t know how to cope right now other than to push it all down as far as I can, but to truly block it out I have to block out all emotions. Because really, the only reason there’s so much pain is because there is so much love for her. To not feel the pain, I’d have to stop feeling the love, for her, and for everyone including my own children. But that’s not fair to them. So I’ll have to stumble through the pain and the love, and the moments of each day, cause one day it’s gotta get better if I just keep going through the motions long enough.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: