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How to Deal with Grief and Loss of All Kinds During COVID-19

September 21st, 2020 · No Comments · how to deal with grief and loss

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re all struggling with how to deal with grief and loss during this COVID-19 period.

I’ve chosen the subject of grief for this second post in my series on “The Emotions of the Pandemic” because grief is such a pervasive and powerful emotion during this pandemic lockdown. We may well not be aware of all the ways in which it is emerging for us in this extraordinary time.

Perhaps we’re aware of the very difficult circumstances that anyone who has lost a loved one has faced during the COVID-19 period. The hardships have been notorious and very well-publicized, including families being unable to visit dying relatives in the hospital, harsh limitations on attendance at funerals, and a range of other very trying ordeals.

Other manifestations of grief may be less obvious. We experience them without even labeling them as grief, yet we may experience them in ways akin to depression.

The Many Forms of COVID Grief and Loss

In a recent article in the Amplify section of the Globe and Mail, Lara Pingue writes about her experiences with her son’s first day of school this year as a senior kindergartner. She notes how getting him ready with mask and hand sanitizer, “after the longest and least rejuvenating March break in history” left her with a keen sense of sadness. She came to realize that this sadness was a sense of grief, stemming from her lost sense of normalcy as she thinks about her son, going to SK in a mask, “who knows that he can’t hug his teacher or high-five his best friend”, and as she thinks about all the normal experiences of work, home and social life that we’ve all had to leave behind in this pandemic period.

As we noted above, Pingue recognizes that she had previously thought of grief in terms of catastrophic loss: “the sharp pang of a lost mother or father, a job, a home”. But she recognized in her experience that the loss of the small things that make life ordinary and secure can result in very substantial experiences of grief.

Pingue quotes the famous thanatologist and grief expert, David Kessler, writing in the Havard Business Review:

We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving.

Kessler, David, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”, Harvard Business Review

Working Hard to Avoid Grief May Not Help

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are grieving in this pandemic period, in a multitude of small ways. We may also find that we are trying very hard to avoid acknowledgment of our grief as we make our way through so-called ordinary life in the pandemic. We’re experiencing a major life transition, with all the emotional fallout that entails

It’s natural to want things to be normal, to damn well insist on them being normal, even when they clearly aren’t. That’s one way in which we try to cope, and among other things, try to reduce our anxiety. Yet the plain fact of the matter is that grief has a way of being present to us, even when we seek to ignore it, and perhaps berate ourselves for feeling it, because we “haven’t had a catastrophic loss.”

Finding Meaning Amidst Grief and Loss

Kessler emphasizes the importance of finding meaning in our grief and loss, as a way of coping with it. In this, he is very much on the same page as C.G. Jung, who continually emphasized the need to find meaning in life, and especially to find it in life’s dark and hard experiences.

What would it mean for us to find meaning in our experiences of grief and loss during this pandemic? First of all, we would have to be willing to look at those experiences, and genuinely acknowledge our sense of loss, and sorrow, much as Lara Pingue did with her experiences. However, we should be aware that our experiences of loss may well be very different from hers. Someone I know finds it really distressing that the whole experience in grocery stores has become so slow and joyless. I personally can feel a huge sense of loss in the way one day blends into another. How do you experience the pandemic?

Working with a depth psychotherapist to process feelings of grief and loss over the pandemic, or any experiences of grief and loss can be of great value. The process can lead us on the path of finding meaning in our loss.

With very best wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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