Emotional Completion in the midst of Covid-19

The whole world was spun into uncertainties due to the pandemic. No nation, continent nor tiny island was spared. Neither Singapore. Unending adjustments to be made, even changes on a daily basis, by government, business and healthcare leaders in view of top priority of safety for high risked seniors and healthcare personnel, to stop the community spread.

From 7 April 2020, Singapore entered into the Circuit Breaker, when all non-essential services were shut down, which included psychological and mental health services. This really affected persons who were already suffering losses. The social isolation was stark and deafening.

When we received news that the community venue we had used past two years was locked down, we had to decide quickly if we would hold the upcoming Grief Recovery Method Group Program scheduled for February till March 2020.

To the relief of four grievers, who had been waiting since the last quarter of 2019 to attend to their broken hearts, I confirmed to open my home to run the Grief Recovery Group Program. They were grateful for the offer and felt my home would be safer than any commercial venue. I sanitized my home and did not take any health risks. We followed the Singapore Ministry of Health advisory to the T with temperature taking the night before, and at 7:30am the morning of the program. When they arrived at my home, they first washed their hands at the sink and dried their hands with disposable paper towel provided, and we took and recorded temperature reading. We repeated the same health protocol each week. Seating was arranged at least 1m apart.

It was too important to ‘work while it’s day’ as these grievers had suffered long enough, and not to delay necessary grief work towards their recovery. Among them, one had been impacted past 10 years since losing her mom to cancer; another trying to cope with two family suicides; another reeling from betrayal, and a young mom of three children grasping the recent sudden death of her husband in a cycling accident.

Here are some of their comments after completing the Program:

“Viewing life beyond intense grief, I can see the long road ahead more clearly. I have better tools to help me manage my little children’s loss and grief. I view grief differently now and have better understanding of recovery and hope to continue on. Thank you for the support in the recovery process. PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] is now getting redefined not as a disorder but an injury. Grief is also a result of that injury. Disorder is what you are born with. Injury is what happened to you post-mortem.” –GA, Mar 2020.

“I appreciated learning useful tools such as taking 1% responsibility, giving it a voice, and completing undelivered communication. The structure of the Program felt very natural and was not overwhelming as it brought us step-by-step to completion, with each step building on the previous one, from bringing awareness of subconscious myths operating, short term coping tactics and … where we can express things that needed to be said. No suggestions for improvement. I felt the Program duration was the right amount of time to do all the readings and assignments, while keeping the momentum of the processing work. Thank you for your care and efforts to help us.” -SL, Mar 2020

“Although I was previously taught to review my losses, going deep into remembering the relationship was painful but very necessary and useful as part of grief recovery. I appreciate that the title of the program is Grief Recovery Program and not just grief processing program. Recovery gives hope that one can recover and not be crippled by the different and inevitable losses in life. GRM has equipped me with the needful tools that I can turn to, when I face losses in the future. GRM is ‘hard’ ‘heart’ work. The deep dive into life losses is tough during the program, but the outcome is fulfilling.” –CC, Mar 2020

“The words ‘different, better or more’ stuck very strongly in my head. It keeps me aware and more conscious of the relationships I have right now, to make ‘different’ or ‘better’ decisions and actions. Thank you Joan for opening your home to us in this Covid-19 situation. We were strangers but you were so open and gracious, and helping each one of us in our journey to recovery.”  -LF, Mar 2020

At the end of the Group Program, I asked each of them to describe in one, two or three words, their experience of embarking on and completing the Program:‘difficult but necessary’, ‘awakening’, ‘clarity’ and ‘progress.’

The sacrifice of the privacy of our home during Covid-19 to enable face-to-face emotional support for these four precious persons was worth it all!

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