Managing Our Collective Grief

A friend came up with the best theme for 2020 that I’ve heard yet: “But wait…there’s more!” Between COVID-19, fires, hurricanes, loneliness, job loss and a presidential campaign, we are all feeling a little wearier and heavier of heart. There is a name for this feeling. It is grief. Certainly, many of us across the world have felt grief over losing a loved one, but grief is a deep sense of loss or connection to something significant in your life. A person can even grieve over something that is unhealthy if it was a substantial placeholder in his or her life. For example, a person can grieve over moving away from life-long friends, grieve over an addiction, or grieve when radical change takes place. Although we vary in how this pandemic has affected us, we grieve together over a world that has changed.

The newest stage of grief after the well-known denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance is finding meaning. Remember these stages of grief are not linear. You can be sad before you are angry or bargain before you deny, or even feel sadness at the same time you feel acceptance. Meaning comes in time. There is no forcing grief to come or go. It will be there until you let it move through you. Not everyone feels grief in the same way or at the same rate. Meaning is emerging all along the way. In the end, we will not be the same but we will not be completely empty either. New flowers will bloom within your new season.

David Kessler, an expert on grief, shares five ways to manage our personal and collective grief.

1. Promote balance in your thinking – When you find your mind filled with anxious or dark thoughts, bring joyful or hopeful thoughts to the surface. Both feelings can co-exist.

2. Be in the present – Use your senses to bring you back to the present. What do you smell? See? Hear? Do not forget the here and now when worry about the future threatens to take over.

3. Let it go – The only thing you can control is you. It is a difficult lesson we learn repeatedly. Focus on what you can do.

4. Be compassionate – When someone else is uncharacteristically, losing his or her patience or having what I call a “mini melt-down,” show some kindness and remember you may have your less than perfect moment next.

5. Keep trying – Kessler teaches that emotions need motion. Just keep going. We are with you.

Grief is a natural part of life unless it lasts longer than a year or interrupts your ability to function. Keep in touch with your providers about your physical and mental health. Ask for resources and referrals as needed. For an appointment with any doctor or provider, call Lovelace Care Concierge 505.727.2727.