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Gearing up in uncertain times


The uncertainties caused by Covid-19 and other global upheavals may make us feel like we’ve left our car in neutral, accelerating to move forward but nothing happens.

We use fuel or energy, but feel a bit stuck and don’t have the same forward movement as usual.

Southland’s Loss and Grief Centre Director, Caroline Loo, encourages us to slip into gear, which in her analogy means seeing someone skilled in helping us process emotions, such as a counsellor.

She says last year, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic triggered feelings of insecurity and fear. Some of us have dealt with these feelings in relation to working through our past, which is healthy.

However, the effects of the pandemic and associated uncertainty continue, as do emotions related to climate change and natural disasters.

“As Covid continues to disrupt our lives, continues to impact on our lives, as do climate change and natural disasters, we are still seeing that people need to stop and look at what’s going on in their lives.”

As a generation, we’ve never been through such worldwide, collective grief before.

“Grief and fear can basically feel like the same feeling.”

We may have been pinning our hopes on a trans-Tasman holiday, to have them dashed by New Zealand’s travel bubble with Australia temporarily closing. Or we may be unable to visit loved ones in a country further away.

She says events which usually provide enjoyment, such as the Olympic Games in Japan, may stir different emotions nowadays. For example, some Tokyo residents fear the games are making the pandemic worse.

It’s tainting a lot of things that we would have just got pure joy from.”


Some of us are sick and tired of talking about Covid-19, however it may help to talk about what has changed in our lives. This may be as simple as sharing frustration that we can’t find a favourite or necessary item because the pandemic has slowed freight delivery.

“If we talk about it, we go, ‘I’m not alone in this’. It gives us some collective comfort, knowing that we’re not alone and that others are also impacted, across the world.”

Caroline says the global upheavals are affecting our ability to manage everything else. These momentous changes are beyond our control, when many of us are used to having control.

“It’s okay to be overwhelmed, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m sick of that stuff’.”

“Knowing that we’re not alone….” Loss and Grief Centre Director Caroline Loo, pictured at
Sandfly Bay, Otago. Photo: Rachel Loo

She says it’s fine to feel many emotions, however we need to do something beneficial with them. This includes connecting with friends, exercise, self-care, and keeping grounded by living each day rather than wondering ‘what if’.

It helps to think about what is going on so we can recognise and name our emotions.

“Name your emotion – is this actually fear or grief? Or are you just hungry?”

People are becoming more open

Caroline says in the past we may have confided in a friend, however she’s noticed that in Southland, people have become more open to talking about their feelings with someone trained to listen and guide.

Men and women, various cultures and all ages continue to contact the centre for support, from young children via their parents to seniors in their nineties.

While some Dunedin residents have driven to Invercargill to visit the centre, it also continues to offer its Emotional Well-being Phone Call Service to anyone in the country.

The centre is considering moving buildings so it has more space for its sessions.

“The only constant in life is change and so we have to be prepared that change is going to continue to happen,” Caroline notes.

She says the solution is always within us and counsellors can help identify the next steps.

I think it’s normal to feel really uncomfortable at the moment.


“And it’s normal to feel normal.”

While some are struggling, others aren’t, and that’s okay too.

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For further information:

 Nationwide: people experiencing any type of distress can free phone or text 1737 any time

Emotional Well-being Phone Call Service, call 027 443 8788, email [email protected] or use Facebook

Loss and Grief Centre



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