HELENA — As everyone begins getting "back to normal," new challenges are arising and some people are just now beginning to process what everyone went through over the past 18 months.
During the pandemic, a lot of people experienced isolation due to social distancing, distant learning, joblessness, hospitalization or loss of a close friend of a family member to COVID-19.
Everyone handled that stress a little bit differently.
Kim Pepper, the Chaplain at St. Peter's Health, authored an article titled “Health Matters: COVID and Ambiguous Loss” as an approach to give people ways to cope with grief due to COVID.
"That sense of well we are going to hunker down, we are going to flatten the curve we are going to slow the spread," said Pepper. "Maybe, learn a hobby, bake some bread, and we will get through this and then as it went on, and on, and on."
Many Montanans moved from the office space being around co-workers to a home space. While others found themselves as caregivers will expand responsibility, such as parents juggling working from home and keeping their children on task with remote learning.
"We took on additional roles of educating children of caring for loved ones and family that weren't able to leave home, and then trying to keep everybody safe in the midst of the pandemic," added Pepper.
Children themselves went through a change from being in the classroom surrounded by friends to only seeing them through the computer screen.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that parents should check in on their child's well-being as well as their own.
Here are some tips to support a child who may be experiencing grief:
- Ask questions to determine the child's emotional state and better understand their perceptions of the event.
- Give children permission to grieve by allowing time for children to talk or to express thoughts or feelings in creative ways.
- Provide age and developmentally appropriate answers.
- Practice calming and coping strategies with your child.
- Take care of yourself and model coping strategies for your child.
- Maintain routines as much as possible.
- Spend time with your child, reading, coloring, or doing other activities they enjoy.
It's also important to note that everyone handles grief and stress differently, and not everyone is ready to communicate how they are feeling openly.
"Even for people who did not feel like they were not affected by it there was this still sense of unease and feeling lost but unable to put their finger on it," noted Pepper.
It is also essential to meet everyone where they are, even if they prefer to internalize their feelings.
"It's called instrumental style. They process more in the thought reality and thought realm, so people with that power grief aren't. You know, they will talk about their feeling, but, you know, they are going to do that safely to feel comfortable."