I came across these numbers in the newspaper about the COVID crisis in India. These are just numbers at a national level but when you think of them as individual human beings and their experiences, the picture is scary and grim. People of Indian origin living in the United States (about 4.6 million in 2019*), are impacted by this COVID crisis in a unique way. I am one of those people! We face a unique experience of stress, loss, and grief from a long distance of 8,448 miles to be exact!
Heartbreaking stories of the impact of COVID on parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors, and other extensions from these relationships are being experienced and shared within this community. As a collectivist culture, it is not unusual for us to hear, empathize, support, and pool resources for anyone connected through this extensive network. This all leads to primary and secondary stress, loss, and grief; primary if you are directly related and secondary if you are supporting someone who is related to a COVID-impacted person.
Unique Challenges: Grieving the loss of loved ones or supporting those who have lost someone in this situation has become more challenging because of…
Tremendous sense of helplessness just due to the nature of the virus spread and conditions on the ground, sometimes in spite of having and willing to spend unlimited resources
Lack of healthcare supports that defy all logic, past experience, and expectations – loved ones have died due to lack of hospital beds, medicines, or oxygen
Logistical, social, and emotional support system is completely broken down – even local friends and family members are unable to help each other out due to safety concerns
Oxygen – something that is all around us all the time became the most invaluable and unavailable commodity
Logistical challenges of the time-zone differences, communications, and resources add to the challenges for Indians in the US who were trying to coordinate care and resources from a distance
Decisions to stay here safely in the US -OR- go to India to support one’s family members and not only risk one’s own health but also add to the burden on the family and the healthcare system are difficult ones to resolve
Even when someone you love dies, the inability to participate in traditional mourning rituals and lack of social support systems makes the grieving process uniquely challenging
The effects of all these experiences can range from day-to-day stress to long-term grief and trauma
Tips for Mental Health: As a licensed mental health therapist with training in grief counseling and a person of Indian origin with strong ties and extensive family still in India, I have a unique perspective on this issue. Below are some suggestions I can make for people of Indian origin living in the US who are struggling with the stress, loss, or grief described above
Connect and Share. Connecting and sharing with friends, family, colleagues, or members in the community can help reduce the sense of isolation and helplessness while providing the needed support and validation. Connect selectively with people who are uplifting and supportive.
Disengage. On the flip side, if disconnecting and disengaging from everything for brief periods of time to recharge yourself is what you need then do that. Or, selectively disengage with sources that are unhealthy or not supportive.
Practice self-compassion. Be kind and gentle with yourself. These are unusually challenging times, guilt or regrets serve little purpose other than depleting your inner resources.
Practice self-care. Do whatever you can do to release the stress and engage in activities that promote your health and well-being.
Grieve. Give yourself time and permission to grieve your loss in ways that work for you. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve as long as it is safe and healthy for you and others around you.
Remember and cherish your loved ones. Find ways to memorialize the ones you have lost and appreciate the ones who are still part of your life.
Help others. Sometimes helping others in need can help you get a sense of purpose and ability to do at least something.
Seek professional help from trained mental health professionals. If you are not able to manage the stress and emotions on your own; if it begins to interfere with your daily life, work, or relationships; or if you just want better coping skills, seek help from mental health professionals.
Take care, Daksha Arora, MS, LGPC, Ph.D.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need help with this!
* Source: www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/fact-sheet/asian-americans-indians-in-the-u-s/