These past few months, as we have all navigated a rapidly changing situation, there have been a lot of treasured things, small and large, we have had to give up. Whether it’s cancelling events such as birthday parties, proms, weddings, once-in-a-lifetime trips, losing your livelihood or dealing with worries about loved ones, there has been an enormous of stress and worry and anxiety these past few months. There have been innumerable sacrifices, small and large.
Along with all of this comes a sense of grief. As grief expert David Kessler, who co-wrote the book “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss,” said in an interview for the Harvard Business Review, “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.”
Grieving the small losses
Even for the smaller things – the cancelled prom, the missed
good-byes – it’s ok to grieve, says psychologist Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., a
professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University of Medical
“We can still grieve our losses and feel compassion and
empathy for people who are sick,” Gurwitch says.
Gurwitch points out that, in addition to the primary worries
about our loved ones getting sick, we are also worrying about a whole slew of
secondary adversities. Some of us have lost our jobs. Some people have lost the
small businesses they’ve spent years building up. Others have jobs which put
them at risk, whether it’s working in a hospital or a grocery store.
All of us are trying to navigate a new world, one that looks
very different from what it looked like just a few months ago. That includes
the big changes, as well as the little ones.
“There are so many layers,” Gurwitch says.
What are the things
you can still treasure?
In all of this turmoil, it is ok to grieve the smaller
things and it is ok to find joy in the small moments.
As an example, Gurwitch, who started her career as a
psychologist in Oklahoma City right at the time of the bombing, points to
parents who felt it was inappropriate to throw a party for their child, given
everything that had happened.
But, as she points out, a birthday party might mean the
world to a small child, even in the backdrop of unimaginable loss. The same
goes for the small joys happening right now, in the middle of a pandemic.
“In the worst of times, are there things you can still
treasure?” Gurwitch says.
If you are
struggling, reach out for help
Gurwitch is careful to note that, contrary to popular
belief, what doesn’t kill us isn’t guaranteed to make us stronger. For people
who were struggling before all of this happened, the stress of the situation is
likely to compound any pre-existing issues. This is especially true for young
children. If you are struggling, if you are feeling overwhelmed by what is
going on, it is especially important to reach out for help.
“No one should have to do this alone,” Gurwitch says.
If you’re in need of support, Australians can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Other sites like BeyondBlue and ReachOut also provide a source of information to help you decide what steps you need to take.