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uncertainty distress. yes, it’s a thing.

Like so many parents who’ve had the opportunity to drop off kids at college these past few weeks, I’m wrestling with familiar empty nest questions about what’s ahead for me. But I’m also struggling, because of the anxiety brought on by Covid-19, with a new type of syndrome, more akin to the phantom pain we associate with the amputation of a limb than letting go of a burgeoning adult. 

The first few nights without my children at home I was jolted awake by imaginary text messages. But each time there were no new words written by my son worried about a rising fever or my daughter concerned about a tickle in her throat. So far, they are fine. It was me who’d become temporarily unable to sleep through the night.

Early research on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic suggests I am not alone with this type of restlessness and unease. Researchers are leaning on data on grief and anxiety following natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, where similarities such as rising death toll, fear for the well-being of loved ones, and disruption of everyday life fueled anxiety, panic, disturbed sleep, and symptoms of PTSD. This kind of upheaval has been called uncertainty distress and in some cases prolonged grief disorder.

If you are feeling overwhelmed right now, please remember you can always call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline. Professionals are available 24/7. The number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If your experience of grief and anxiety is feeling less severe but still a pressing concern, please take advantage of my e-course, Grief & Anxiety: Best Ways to Survive & Thrive. In addition to the video course, you’ll get bonus materials, including “5 Strategies to Calm Anxiety and Curb Anxious-Thinking” and “Allison’s Favorite Grief & Anxiety Resources,” a curated review of best books, articles, and must‑try apps. I’ll also reveal opportunities for remembering loved ones, even during Covid‑19.

You’ll be able to view and rewatch the course anytime, whenever you need it. You are not alone.

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