How to Process Grief and Find Healing in a Pandemic Wedding.
Story by Alison Morogiello, Licensed Professional Counselor + Brought to you by Healthy Minds Therapy
The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed so much from our communities, in more ways than we would like to comprehend. In addition to the significant loss of life as a result of this public health crisis, many individuals also lost something we can never get back - time. While the pandemic seems to have stopped the world in its tracks, time marches on. The grief of lost time has been a burden for so many, and we see it quite clearly in our newlyweds.
Many couples have had to postpone or cancel their weddings until further notice. Others have postponed their wedding not just once, but multiple times. Some planned to have their wedding on its original date, but with significant restrictions and adjustments to meet safety requirements. None of these options are ideal, and ALL result in a loss of what many hope for on their wedding day: to have the “perfect” day that is without worry, anxiety, or sadness.
So what can you do in the face of this grief? First, we want to understand how loss affects us emotionally, and how we can find peace and support to move forward. You may have heard of the “Stages of Grief,” or the different emotional states in which we process loss. While we can experience any or all of these stages, it’s important to note that modern research suggests that these “stages” do not occur in a linear form, but rather like a pinball machine – bouncing around back and forth, until we finally come out the end. With each round, it becomes easier and easier to navigate the process.
Stage 1: Denial
Sometimes, we just want to close our eyes, plug our ears, sing “LA LA LA,” and pretend that everything is fine. Early on in the pandemic, many couples intended to carry on as planned – we all thought lockdown would only last a few weeks, right? We may avoid thinking about it together, trying to distract ourselves from facing reality. In the pinball machine, denial is the pause between the plunger and the ball. Until you release the pinball, you are stuck at the machine. All you can do is take a deep breath, let go, and start playing.
Stage 2: Anger
Let’s face it, this pandemic has made us ANGRY. In the pinball machine, anger is the ball hitting the bells, flashing and making that unsettling, tinny ring over and over again. Many individuals seeking to get married during the pandemic are angry and often blame any target of our rage. When we are angry, remember that anger is a secondary emotion protecting us from more vulnerable emotions. Start with a self-soothing task, then remind yourself, “I am angry because it is important to me that...” in order to refocus on your values and prevent “lashing out.”
Stage 3: Bargaining
If you ever find yourself asking the “what if” or the “if only” questions, you are probably in the bargaining stage of grief. Here, we are the pinball whipping back and forth from the bumpers, trying to imagine or negotiate a reality where we can avoid the loss at all costs. If you find yourself bargaining, recognize that you are trying to grasp control where you have none. Instead, try to refocus and write a list of the things you can do in the moment. This will grant you more control and mindfulness of the present, rather than focusing on the past or future.
Stage 4: Depression
Here, we are at the bottom of the machine, trying to press the flippers and finding no luck in keeping the ball up and moving. We feel helpless in the moment and hopeless for the future. If you find yourself crying when you think of your wedding day, becoming numb and apathetic, feeling emotionally fatigued, or saying something along the lines of, “my wedding day is ruined,” you are likely experiencing the depression stage of grief. Take one step at a time to find support from loved ones and professionals, so that you can have space for healing.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Naturally, we have fallen to the bottom of the machine, back to the beginning with the pinball in hand. In this stage of grief, we find a level of peace with the loss and are able to move forward. Here, gratitude is grounding and can refocus us toward the future. What are you grateful for as you prepare for, or reflect on, your wedding day? Gratitude does not cancel out the pain you are going through, but it does give us something secure to stand on, find hope, and enjoy what loss really is: the reflection of joy and love in our lives.
Loss is a normal part of life, but we cannot have joy without grief. When planning or reflecting on your wedding during these difficult times, remember that ALL of these stages and their emotions are valid, healthy, and HUMAN. Find support to heal, have fun in the moments, and reinforce what truly matters: marrying the love of your life, in good times and in woe.
MEET ALLISON MOROGIELLO
Alison is a Licensed Professional Counselor providing counseling services at our Alexandria location. Alison is a National Certified Counselor, with an M.Ed. in Marriage & Family Counseling and a B.S. in Psychology from William & Mary, Virginia.
Alison’s goal in therapy is to build trust and rapport so that her clients feel safe, comfortable, and heard throughout the therapeutic process. She is warm and bubbly, with the ability to match her clients in a way that creates a strong and positive therapeutic relationship.