Coronavirus demands grieving, but recovery is as inevitable

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The COVID-19 pandemic has stolen lives, dreams, and livelihood from people across the globe. Given this, everyone was introduced to a set of rules called the “new normal” to curb the spread of the viral infection.

“I don’t want to term it new normal," said Dr. Gia Sison, a doctor of occupational medicine and a mental health advocate. "Life is presenting with new challenges every day. It’s difficult because we’re faced with something uncertain."

"This time, we’re talking about a long-time stressor,” she said.

Sison was joined by other panelists in a webinar organized by CNN Philippines and San Mig Light called "Cost of Isolation A Mahaba-habang Usapan on Coping, Managing, and Accepting."

The other panelists were Mark Henick, an author and the CEO of Strategic Mental Health Solutions; Jean Goulbourn, founder of Natasha Goulbourn Foundation; and actress Kylie Verzosa, a mental health advocate and Miss International 2016. The webinar was facilitated by multi-awarded actress Iza Calzado.

The panelists discussed the stages of loss and grief people have to go through during this pandemic, all cooped up in their homes.

“Acknowledgement is a whole new world and acceptance is a process,” Sison shared.

She added that it is a matter of “fighting through” every circumstance every day one step at a time.

For Goulbourn, she said her foundation has been receiving about 3,400 calls a month since the pandemic began -- a 200 percent spike in the foundation's numbers.

The founder said that most of the callers ask about the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the likelihood that they are experiencing mental health conditions.

Verzosa, who went through depression herself, said that she tried to enrich her mind during the quarantine period by enrolling in different classes as she wants to come out of this crisis a better person.

Henick, on the other hand, steered the conversation toward not going back to the old way of living and being fine with that setup.

“We have to let go of the idea that we’ll ever go back to the old normal," Henick said. "Because in some ways, unless we accept the current circumstance, that doesn’t mean liking it. But unless we accept it, we’ll never change.”

The author also noted that for an individual to move forward, one must start accepting the situation he or she is in.

Calzado, who was a COVID-19 survivor, also shared about her fight against the disease and talked about how much of a humbling experience it was.

Despite all of them agreeing that it is okay to take your time to not be okay during this period, Henick said people should not be afraid of recovery.

He said that it is the other side of the spectrum — the opposite of depression.

For Henick, stories of recovery make people believe that it is possible to get better along the way even if it takes time and process.

“Recovery takes time," he pointed out. "It takes work. No one will inject recovery into your veins.”