That dull feeling – could it be ambiguous loss?

by | Sep 14, 2020

Welcome to the latest in my new monthly series of guest blogs, where I invite inspirational retirement bloggers to feature their work on my site.

This month, we have Susan Williams of Booming Encore talking about that ‘dull, uneasy feeling’ that many of us have been experiencing during the pandemic. This post was originally published on Booming Encore and has been republished with permission. Susan, over to you!

That Dull Feeling – Could It Be Ambiguous Loss?

By all accounts, I could be considered one of the lucky ones during this pandemic. My family is all safe and well, I have work that I enjoy and lots of friends to chat with either through phone calls, video or even actually meeting them (while physically distancing of course).

But for some reason I still don’t feel “quite right“.

It’s sort of a dull, uneasy feeling. Like something is just not right but you just can’t seem to put your finger on it.

It shows up some days in my lack of desire to get things done. Or my interest to watch an extra episode of a series I’m streaming rather than doing something more productive. Or wandering through my pantry in the afternoon for a sugary energy boost to propel me through the rest of the day.

As I was trying to figure out what the problem was, I happened to run across an excellent article that shone a light on what this might be.

Ambiguous loss

In the article entitled; Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful, the author outlines her experience as she manages through the pandemic. She shares how difficult this situation is because there really is no definitive finish line. We don’t know when this will actually end so this is leading to chronic stress as we try to deal with this unprecedented, once in a lifetime situation.

Many are also coping with something referred to as ambiguous loss. This is defined as any type of loss that is unclear or lacks a resolution. The article shared that many may be feeling this way given our loss to our previously structured way of life.

For example, the small things that we used to take for granted have changed. Meeting with our friends or extended family or even children going to school are no longer straightforward. We have also lost many of our rituals – weddings, graduations, funerals or even something as simple as going to the gym.

The pandemic has meant our surge capacity has been deleted

For me, what I have also discovered illuminated through this pandemic, is my mortality. As older people were classified as one of the major at risk groups, I couldn’t help but see it. Time has now become one of my most valuable commodities as this is something that I just can’t get more of.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, I had plans to travel, plans to visit family in other locations, plans to do many things that seem to have been put on hold while we wait for this pandemic to stabilise. But as I’m waiting, I can feel the frustration stir inside me as I think about the time passing by. I am feeling a sense of loss over something that I can’t change or have control over. Which I now have discovered may be considered ambiguous loss.

So what should I do?

This article had a number of very good suggestions (and are all explained further in the article);

1. Accept that life is different right now

2. Expect less of yourself

3. Recognise the different aspects of grief

4. Experiment with “both-and” thinking

5. Look for activities new and old that continue to fulfil you

6. Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships

7. Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

And I would add one more that I have discovered as I started talking to others about how I’m feeling…

Reach out to your nearest and dearest

Realise you are not alone

These are unprecedented times and as a result, we don’t necessarily have all the coping skills to recognise and manage it. But if we watch for the signs both within ourselves and everyone else we care about, hopefully we will be able to help support each other through this and come out stronger on the other side – whenever that may be.

Books by George Jerjian

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Dare to Discover Your Purpose is an innovative new online retirement course designed to help you change the way you feel about this important but often misunderstood life stage.

Susan Williams is founder of Booming Encore, a digital media hub dedicated to providing information and inspiration to baby boomers so they can create and live their very best encore. You can follow her on Twitter at @BoomingEncore.

Susan Williams
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