It’s late Sunday night and I am rewriting this blog for the fourth time.
I’ve been realizing today just how sad and scared and helpless I feel. I’ve been feeling frozen – sitting somewhere in the middle of the exhaustion of being stuck at home trying to work from home with my two small children, feeling envy towards my single friends who are enjoying their free time, feeling overwhelmed by the toll this virus is taking on crisis workers, and helplessness in knowing that there is so much about the future that I cannot control.
I have been frozen because I have been putting off feeling grief.
Scott Berinato, a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review, wrote an article two weeks ago entitled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.” In his article, Scott interviews David Kessler, “the world’s foremost expert on grief.” I won’t list all of his qualifications here, but David is definitely the guy I would want to be talking to right now about grief.
The first question Berinato asks Kessler is to clarify whether or not what we are all feeling is actually grief. Here is Kessler’s response:
“Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. 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. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
“We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.” This is the strangest part of the crisis for me. I am used to seeing, talking to, and helping people in crisis all of the time. I am not a stranger to experiencing crisis myself. But this new experience in which we all feeling and experiencing crisis together is a little disorienting.
Kessler describes this kind of grief as anticipatory grief, or “that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.”
There are certainly many uncertainties about the world now that this virus exists within it and Kessler observes: “I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”
On some level, I’ve known that the grief I am now allowing myself to feel has been coming since the beginning. I have seen the losses that have already been accumulating – from the loss of hugs to the loss of lives – and I know that many more are to come. But until now, I haven’t really let myself feel it. And I’m glad that I finally have.
“There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through… If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”
So here I am, acknowledging and naming what I am feeling it and sharing it with you. Feeling what is inside of me and hoping that it will empower both you and me to keep feeling and to keep moving forward.
To read the full article: Berinato, S. (2020, March 23). That discomfort you’re feeling is grief. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief.
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