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GriefSpeak: A personal reflection on surviving “stay at home” orders

By: Mari Dias

CHOICES

I have heard this pandemic compared to several Stephen King novels, “The Hunger Games”, “Divergent”, and for the older folks “The Twilight Zone”. At the outset, everyone scrambled for necessities and followed every edict heard, both nationally and locally. It seems like we have only recently come out of our stupor and have begun to take stock in our own views and not follow like a herd of supplicant sheep. We (or I) recognized we still have choices.

Since my childhood, my family has referred to me as “Mari quite contrary”, and perhaps that moniker was appropriate then, but now I see it as a passionate fire to take control of my life as I see fit. Pre Covid-19, I was teaching in a classroom, seeing clients in my office, and volunteering for Teen Challenge Rhode Island and the American Red Cross. I was swimming about a mile every day at my local gym and bringing my dogs to the dog park.

When the virus attacked, I, like many, experienced a modicum of fear, surreality and panic; however, when I traveled to Florida in early January, I wore a mask – despite the cry not to wear one. I began to come out of the Covid-19 vacuum to use my common sense. Since then I have made modifications in my lifestyle that make this existence more palatable. I remembered and reminded myself again: I have a choice. We all have choices.

  1. After the first 2 weeks of wearing sweats, I woke up and gave myself a good talking to. “Mari, you are not helpless; this situation will not get you.”  Since that renewed epiphany…
  2. I choose to have my meals in my favorite china and crystal, marking each meal as an event.
  3. I chose to purchase a bicycle. Riding has changed my outlook dramatically, with lots of vitamins and fresh air along with a feeling of freedom.
  4. I chose to purchase hundreds of perennials as a reminder. When they bloom it will be a sign.
  5. I chose to purchase bags of small pieces of tile to decorate the top of a tree stump, making it look like the tabletop from a small café in Naples, Italy.
  6. I chose to purchase a difficult and challenging paint by number.
  7. I live near the beach. When the governor closed the beaches and the dog parks, I walked there. I took the dogs and ran along the shoreline or walked the wall at Narragansett. Always with face covering and gloves.
  8. On good weather days, I choose to put my convertible top down and drive as far as I can, with the wind in my hair, my favorite tunes blasting on the radio, always accompanied by one of the dogs in my passenger seat.
  9. My biggest hurdle was to imitate my near daily swims. After careful consideration and research, I chose to purchase a wet suit. Now I can go back to my laps, either in a private pool or the ocean.
  10. I choose not to watch the news on a regular basis. It is time consuming, sucks you into the politics and death totals and can result in 24 hours of rumination and perseveration. Less is better.
  11. I choose to take a long, hot bath at days end.

When we get caught up in both the minutiae and the significance of the impact of this pandemic, we risk becoming myopic. We are intelligent, adept human beings who want to empower ourselves and be empowered by others. I for one do not want to be enabled. We can recognize and make choices, (albeit limited at this time), but choices none the less. We simply need a bit of ingenuity and creativity and the ability to be independent, passionate…and maybe a bit “contrary”.

Dr. Dias is 67 years old with a very active lifestyle and no immune deficiencies.

Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to:  http://gracepointegrief.com/