We have all experienced a great loss. Now, it’s time to grieve.
There’s no denying it — life as we knew it is over. It will never return to the way it was.
I don’t mean that in a doomsday way. I mean that in a realistic, objective way. In the same way that 9/11 changed how we traveled, COVID-19 will change how we live our lives based on what we are experiencing right now.
Our stores and businesses are closing their doors (rightfully so) to protect our communities. Our workplaces are moving virtual. Online chats are replacing happy hours. Our grocery stores look ransacked. Everywhere we look, it seems like the beginning of an apocalyptic movie.
We have all experienced a tremendous loss — and all in a variety of ways. Some of us have lost our loved ones. Some of us have lost our livelihoods. Some of us have lost our freedom of movement and travel. Some of us have lost our health. All of us have lost our sense of normalcy.
In the face of loss, we must grieve — and be told that it’s OK to grieve.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ grief model is well-known and includes five stages:
While the model expresses a linear movement through the stages (denial first, then anger), many people, including myself, experience these feelings in a chaotic flurry. After my dad’s death in 2015, I spent a lot of time and a lot of therapy thinking about grief and processing my feelings. I did, and still have, days of anger and depression about his death, just as I have days of acceptance.
Our communal grief and individual grief may follow the same haphazard pattern. Some days, we may accept this new world and be open to its possibilities. In the next hour, we may flip to anger, raging at the set of circumstances that brought us to this moment in time. We may return to denial or bargaining, searching through news stories and data to validate a comforting belief. Depression, as always, can come upon us at any moment, and beckon to its dark hole.
These feelings are healthy, and OK, and more than that, necessary. Grief is not a process to be rushed through. More importantly, grief is rarely a process that ends at a specific point and date after all the feelings inside are exhausted.
I started this post with two stark comments: “There’s no denying it — life as we knew it is over. It will never return to the way it was.” But the reality is that life as we know it is ALWAYS over. The world is everchanging, and change is not a good or bad thing—it’s just a constant. Every moment, every day, we live in a constant state of impermanence and fluidity. The future is never guaranteed. But, we can shape the future to be better than the past. We can take action now that ensures a better tomorrow.
Here’s the silver lining to grief and loss — it makes us appreciate what we have. If we allow it, it gives us the prescience of mind to live in the present. It provides us with the courage to take chances and risks. These moments of devastation can bring about unbridled love, empathy, and connection, as we all grapple with our grief.
So, let’s hold space for one another during this time of communal grief. Let’s love one another. Let’s grieve together today so that we can live together tomorrow.
This article first appeared on Medium, Coping With Our Communal Grief Through Coronavirus