“To spare oneself from grief at all costs can only be achieved at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.” Erich Fromm3
“Everyone of us lost something to coronavirus, and it’s okay to grieve that.” Brandon Anderson4
The word grief can often, in itself, bring up pain in our hearts. We’ve all grieved, and we’re all grieving.
Grief can become pathologized into some sort of mental disorder, but in reality, grief is a healthy, expected and necessary part of life, which inevitably includes loss.
Grief, just as any other experience, is unique to the individual. There is no one right or wrong way to grieve, and the significance of the loss is subjective.
Grief is our response to loss, our working through and processing loss and our key to healing from loss. Although I think we’d all like to avoid grief, to just “feel better already” and move on with our lives, grief can’t be bypassed. Of course, we can go on as if we haven’t experienced a loss but our bodies know. We’ll eventually need to move through it in some way.
When I say “we’re all grieving,” this isn’t to undermine the immense grief faced by those who have lost a significant person or part of their life, but to normalize the experience and bring a new perspective. We feel, process and let go all the time, which means we are all experienced grievers and have survived many losses already.
Every decision we make means letting go of the other options. Every time we say goodbye to a friend, finish a good (or bad) book, complete a project, finish a delicious meal, go to bed, put down our phones, go home after a party – all of these seemingly mundane events involve loss and a willingness to let go.
In a recent episode of her podcast Unlocking Us1, Brene Brown engages in an intimate conversation with David Kessler, one of the most well-known experts and lecturers on death and grieving in our world today. It’s a beautiful and honest exchange about such a sensitive topic and how, while we may not want to name it, the whole world is in a process of grieving right now.
Speaking to this, Kessler says, “We’re all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. We’re feeling so many losses – the loss of physical connection, the loss of routine, the loss of work, the loss of physical touch, the loss of gathering for meals, the loss of gathering for worship. We don’t even have time to cover all of the losses we’re encountering right now. That’s what’s really underlying this, and I don’t think we have an awareness of it.”1
The world as we knew it changed overnight during this pandemic.
He goes on to say, “We’re in this together. It’s not going to be forever, it will end. There’s not a dark night that stays and yet, we have to feel these feelings, we have to feel the grief.”1
Our society generally isn’t very good at supporting grief. Grief doesn’t have a timeline. We can’t just ‘move on’ or ‘snap out of it.’ It’s a process and there are no simple steps to follow. And it’s painful.
While we can’t change the losses and the pain is inevitable when grieving, we can support ourselves through it – create a cushion to land on as opposed to a concrete floor.
Kessler often says that grief needs to be witnessed. We need to be seen and heard in our grief, we need to feel that we’re not alone, and that our loss matters. This is one way we can create a cushion for ourselves. Find people you can share your grief with, who will listen and accept you in this process. Connect with others who might be experiencing similar feelings. Join an online grief group. Connect with a mental health professional. Call our Four County Crisis line.2
Be gentle with yourself. If you find that you’re berating yourself for not being productive enough, are having outbursts of anger, are distracted, need more sleep than usual, are crying out of the blue – give yourself some kindness. The world is in crisis. It’s understandable that you might feel scared, anxious, sad, angry, lonely, lethargic, confused, overwhelmed, etc…
Kessler talks about the importance of finding meaning after a loss. This is not about forcing meaning or denying the loss, but about naming meaningful moments that exist as we go on with living. During this pandemic, can we create meaningful moments? This doesn’t have to be something big. You have a conversation with a dear friend – that’s a meaningful moment. You look out the window and hear the springtime bird songs – that’s a meaningful moment. I write this post and you read it, that’s a meaningful moment.1
Wherever you are in the world, wherever you are in your grief, know that your process is important, it’s valid and you’re not alone.
Four County Crisis: 705-745-6484 or toll-free 1-866-995-9933
Unlocking Us Podcast. March 31 2020. David Kessler and Brene on Grief and Finding Meaning.
Healing the Five Areas of Grief: Free Webinar
Good Reads. Quotable Quotes, Erich Fromm.
- Anderson, Brandon. March 26 2020. We all lost something to coronavirus, and it’s okay to grieve. PS I Love You.https://psiloveyou.xyz/we-all-lost-something-to-coronavirus-and-its-okay-to-grieve-covid-19-grief-privilege-perspective-mindfulness-dea9ebcd95f
- Grief. Mind your Mind. https://mindyourmind.ca/illnesses/grief