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Coping in the WA Bubble

26 AUG 2020

As infection numbers continue to rise, the chances of Western Australia lifting its border restrictions any time soon continue to decrease. This will see many Western Australians having to cope with not knowing when they will see their friends and family members living overseas or over east.

Recent announcements have indicated that the state's ban on arrivals from other states and territories could remain until 2021. The latest outbreak of new COVID-19 cases in Victoria and New Zealand has shattered hopes for reconnecting with the eastern states and loved ones overseas. While WA’s border restrictions have provided a safe haven for locals, many Western Australians are experiencing sadness and anxiety about when they will be able to reconnect with loved ones not residing in our WA bubble.

“What we’re experiencing is a form of loss and it is important to recognise that and acknowledge we are grieving the loss of our personal freedom,” Lifeline WA bereavement counsellor Naomi Weir explains.

Grief is a natural and normal process of reacting to a loss. Because grief is more commonly thought of in terms of the death of a loved one, it can be difficult to acknowledge and process when it occurs in unconventional forms or circumstances. Unfortunately, grieving the loss of planned holidays or the ability to visit family outside of WA does not come with a formal ceremony or the traditional rituals that would usually be associated with grief.

However, it may be helpful to realise that experiencing any type of loss is valid and not something to be ashamed of. It is important to remember that the feeling of loss is personal, and it is okay to grieve for a loss of any kind – including abandoned vacation plans. Naomi has heard people speak about their sadness, but then retract their statements due to guilt.

“It can be difficult to see it in ourselves and we don’t validate those feelings enough,” she says.“We are so lucky we are safe in WA, but it is also reasonable to be grieving the loss of something real and relevant to us here.

“We are allowed to feel the impact of the pandemic in whatever way it has affected us. It is important not to dismiss that just because it is a different level of loss.” 

Naomi emphasises the importance of gaining self-awareness and acknowledging the sadness felt around “not being able to do what we would usually be free to do”. Naomi highlights the value of self-validation, which involves perceiving those sad thoughts and feelings as justifiable and acceptable. Feeling the loss of travel freedom makes sense and is understandable in this situation.

Accepting reality is another helpful skill. When a situation, such as the border restrictions, cannot be changed and when our emotions are difficult to modify, acceptance of reality can be used to reduce our suffering. “Refusing to accept reality can keep us stuck in unhappiness or other painful emotions,” Naomi advises.

Unfortunately, we are unable to change the situation we are in right now and many Western Australians are grieving the loss of being able to travel but it is important to acknowledge this grief and honour it. “With that acknowledgement, we can work on acceptance and realise we can still have some really beautiful experiences despite lots of things being out of our control right now,” Naomi says.

As always if you are finding it difficult to cope with these feelings of loss, grief or uncertainty then call Lifeline WA on 13 11 14 | 24/7.

Image Credit: Photo by Gonz DDL on Unsplash

Written by Liz Schleicher