That discomfort you are feeling during this time may be grief. It is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way. Our world has changed and our lives have been uprooted, and we are grieving collectively. Often we try to negate or avoid the feeling of grief, but it is important to recognize and allow ourselves to express and acknowledge those feelings. There is a balancing act, though; you also need to allow yourself to remain in the present and try not dwell on those feelings.


  1. Be respectful of others' feelings and your own
  2. Lean into the discomfort
  3. Practice coping skills and Circle of Control
  4. Practice mindfulness


  1. Learn about anticipatory grief
  2. Learn the six stages of grief
  3. Practice identifying your feelings and thoughts
  4. Practice being in the present moment (mindfulness)
Day 1 | What is anticipatory grief?

Anticipatory grief is the feeling we get when we think about an uncertain future. Normally, this pertains to death. Often, we imagine a broadly negative future because we know or think something bad is going to happen, but we cannot see it or prevent it — much like this virus. When we are uncertain about the future, we attribute that to a lack of control. This feeling of helplessness comes from the lack of normalcy and loss of connection to others, places, things and events.

During normal circumstances, it is much easier to count on the future and to set goals or make plans in advance. However, during this pandemic, the future is more uncertain and feels like it is put on hold. This is where those feels of loss can come from.

Something for all of us to keep in mind is that we all express our feelings in different ways. It can be challenging to live with parents, friends, and roommates while having to stay home. Keep in mind that others are going through this process as well, and that their grieving process might not look exactly like yours.

Some examples of things people may be grieving right now

  • Graduations
  • Birthdays
  • Family get togethers
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Going to parks/activities/events
  • Loss of freedom, routine, and journey
  • Object Loss: Loss of financial stability, home stability, physical space (e.g. work, gym)
  • Role Loss (Loss of being a good boss, loss of being in a relationship, loss of being there for your family, etc.)

What are other types of loss we are dealing with right now? Do any of these ring true for you?

Day 2 | Six stages of grief

It can be helpful to understand the stages of grief. These do not necessarily happen in any particular order.

  • Denial (The virus won’t affect us)
    • Is the rejection of something that is clear and obvious — like Covid-19
    • Example during COVID — “This whole thing is overblown,” or “This is a media circus,” or “This is the same as the flu.”
  • Anger (The virus is making me stay home and taking away activities)
    • We often use anger as an attempt to control our fears. We sometimes blame others or refuse to comply with rules.
    • Examples during COVID — “This is China’s fault” or “I don’t care what the government is saying; I’m going to work,” or “Forget what they told us; I'm having friends over.”
  • Bargaining (If I social distance for two weeks everything will go back to normal, right?)
    • This happens when we start to acknowledge reality but are not ready to give up control.
    • Examples during COVID — “It's ok to hang out with friends if we wash our hands” or “This will be over in a month; I'll be safe until then” or “I can tell when people look sick, so I’ll just avoid them.”
  • Sadness/Depression/Despair (I don’t know when this will end)
    • This occurs when reality sets in and we begin to accept what is happening.
    • It can cause hopelessness, disempowerment, or self-pity
    • Examples during COVID — “This is the new normal. Say goodbye to hopes and dreams,” or “I can’t work or earn money; I'll be homeless soon,” or “I'll get sick and die alone. Nobody will help me.”
  • Acceptance (This is the reality of the situation, and I must figure out how to proceed)
    • We acknowledge the facts or reality and start to deal with it effectively by taking back what we can control.
    • Examples during COVID — “I can't control the pandemic, but I can do my part. I can stay home, wash my hands, and be positive,” or “The world will change, but this will end, and we will be kinder for it,” or “Just because I cannot leave my house does not mean life stops. I just have to do things a little differently.”

We find control in acceptance.

What else can we control?

Day 3 | Grief as physical pain

We've learned a bit about anticipatory grief, as well as what it looks like and the goal of the grieving process. Sometimes, however, people get mired in unhealthy anticipatory grief. This can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, lethargy, eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, headaches, etc.

Our mind may go to a future where we imagine the worst. The present situation is open-ended; when it is open-ended, our thoughts can spiral. This can look like our mind showing us images of loved ones getting sick, for example, or other worst-case scenarios.

It may surprise you, but this is our mind's way of being protective and trying to keep us safe. The goal is not to ignore those thoughts and feelings or make them go away. That would be painful and stressful, and it wouldn't work; feelings must be felt before they can go away. However, we must find a balance in our thinking.

If you think of the worst, try thinking of the best-case scenario. Do not let one thought dominate the other. Be mindful and present to keep calm.

Example: My career will be put on hold (worst) VERSUS This allows me to try something new at this time (best)

What are more examples you can think of?

Day 4 | Coping skills

Grief can be challenging and consuming. It can help to be mindful and try to stay in the present moment. Some mindfulness and grounding techniques that may help include:

  • Reminding yourself that you are okay right now. Tell yourself:
    • You have food and other resources you need
    • You are healthy
    • You are safe
  • Name five things you see around you. Try to find something you can see for each color of the rainbow.
  • Breathe out as slowly as possible. This can help even if you are panicking; it can be hard to control your speed breathing in, but you can slow your breath as you exhale.
  • Make a list of five things you are grateful for
  • Use other senses to ground yourself in the present. For example, touch objects around you and think about how they feel (desk is hard and smooth, pillow is soft, blanket is fuzzy, etc.), or name the sounds you hear around you (birds chirping, chimes, the wind, cat purring, etc.)

Some other tools that can help keep your grief or anxiety at manageable levels include:

  • Take a news break. It can be important to keep up to date, but if it causes you stress or anxiety, take a break. It will still be there later.
  • Let go of what you cannot control. What others are doing is out of your control, including what your friends or neighbors do or what stores do.
  • Think about what is under your control:
    • Washing your hands
    • Staying six feet away
    • Self-care
    • Staying hydrated and eating well
    • Getting a good night's rest
  • Stock up on compassion.
    • Check in on others
    • Check in on yourself
  • Keep trying
  • Let yourself feel sad for 5 minutes. Do not tell yourself you should not feel that way. It's ok to feel what you feel. Do not fight it. Allow feelings to happen in an orderly way:
    • Let yourself feel grief and keep going
    • The feelings will go away
    • Do not dwell on them
    • Acknowledge them
Day 5 | Practice, reflect, and continue

Ask yourself:

  • What worked? What didn’t work?
  • Do you have suggestions for others?
  • Are there other coping skills you want to try?
Check out these resources for self-care and coping with isolation