By: Francisco Dueñas
Like many Latinos in California, I had friends and family who passed away from the coronavirus this winter. I’ve been reading a book on how to recover from a tragedy and get over, or rather, process grief.
A death, even more an unexpected one, can completely destabilize a family or individual. In addition to the material consequences (eg. funeral expenses, the lack of income contributed by the deceased), there are all kinds of emotional and psychological consequences.
Obviously, because it is a pandemic there are many people going through this. However, that does not mean that we as, a community, know how to support each other. And the social and physical distancing that virus prevention measures have imposed on us also limit how much support one receives from their network of friends and family. Precisely because of the pandemic, many people may be suffering alone, without the support that they usually have.
Even though I only started the book, it has already helped me. It’s called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The book talks about how grief can make us feel the three Ps: personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. Personalization means that we think the tragedy was designed for us or that we deserved it for some reason. With respect to the pandemic, there are people who took all the precautions and even got sick. It is not to say that we should not try to protect ourselves, but that we are all doing the best we can. Pervasiveness means that you feel like this tragedy is going to affect all parts of your life. The death of a loved one does affect us completely, but that does not mean that all parts of your life are ruined. Permanence is because we think the pain of grief will never lessen. Even if you will never forget your loved one, grief evolves and you will not always feel it the same way.
Finding a support group or, at least, an individual who has been through the same thing as you and with whom you can vent is helpful. You can call (800) 854-7771 24 hours a day to find this type of support and others.
We have to take care of our mental health in the same way that we take care of the health of other parts of our body. There are steps you can take to prevent yourself from falling into depression, anxiety, or simply to deal with everyday stress. Los Angeles County has an agreement with the app Headspace (www.headspace.com/lacounty) that offers you techniques and exercises to improve your mood and mental health.
Finally, the federal government, through the FEMA agency, is reimbursing the expenses of funeral services to relatives who lost a loved one due to coronavirus. And there is also financial support to pay rent or utility bills (for example, electricity and water): www.housing.ca.gov. I will continue to share what I learn.