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“Serenity now!”

“Serenity now!” That has been the ongoing quarantine joke at our house (my husband enjoys watching old Seinfeld episodes). My husband and I tend to use humor as a coping mechanism these days. Life has changed dramatically over the past few months, and sometimes finding humor in a situation can dissipate frustrations as we learn to accept and cope with the “new normal.” Routines have changed. Social expectations have changed. How we work, parent, learn, worship, interact with strangers, communicate with loved ones—how we live our lives has changed.

This “new normal” we are all trying to find, it actually reminds me of the grief process. People often think of grief as mourning the loss of a person, but we can grieve other things as well. Grief is merely processing the loss of something. We have all lost something these past few months. Some have lost a sense of safety. I know people with underlying health conditions who live every day in fear of contracting this ugly virus and the possibility of dying from it. Some feel like they have lost their liberties, angry that they can not do some of the things that they used to be able to do freely. And for others, the grief process embodies the traditional sense of the word as they mourn the loss of a loved one and may not even be able to have a funeral in their loved one’s honor.

The thing with grief is that there can be a beauty in its process. There is beauty and strength in growth, in that journey to acceptance—to serenity—if you choose that for yourself. It may not always feel like we have a lot of choice or power right now, but you do. My mother used to say “you always have a choice.” We may not choose what situation we find ourselves in, but what we can choose is how we respond to it. There is power in that choice. Life circumstances can either build you up or break you down. The good news is that that choice is up to you. The more good news is that you never have to do it alone. There are always people to help build you up—friends, family, neighbors, therapists, religious leaders, social services, to name a few.

During these times especially, I encourage you to seek out kindness over anger, patience over irritability, gratitude over resentment, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel over these temporary shadows. Focus on the things that you have control over. Kiss your spouse when they walk through the door. Tell your child time and time again that they are loved. Ask a friend how they are doing throughout all of this and if there is anything they need. Smile at strangers even if they seem nervous to be around you. Take note of little acts of kindness and tell people when you appreciate them. Use a gentle voice even if you are at the end of your rope. Those daily choices, however small they may seem at the time, they all add up to your life’s moments. It is up to you what kind of power you want to hold. How you live your life—that is your choice, that is your power.

And if you are struggling with acceptance, grief, or anything life is throwing at you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Melaina Garrison, MA, LMFT, provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office and via teletherapy. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Melaina.