As we now find ourselves suddenly fully in the holiday season, we believe it is important to recognize the grief we have all, collectively, experienced – each in our own way – this year. It might seem funny at first to think of our experience of a global pandemic as a loss that we need to grieve, but hear us out – this is the kind of loss we have to especially learn to grieve because it is so complex.
We define “loss” in several ways – typically there is a primary loss with secondary loss(es) resulting from that primary loss. In our example, the primary loss is a global pandemic and the secondary losses are anything that has changed in big or small ways as a result of the pandemic, for example – loss of celebrations and events, loss of social life, loss of “endings,” loss of a job, loss of future, loss of routine, and the loss of health or a loved one.
On top of all of these big and small losses, our sense of structure, safety, and stability in the world has shifted dramatically. We are also experiencing the loss of the world we knew, which means we need to adjust the way we grieve our losses. Our normal ways of coping may not be available to us in the way we are used to right now.
Disenfranchised grief occurs when a loss is surrounded by uncertainty, like when a loss is not openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned, or is stigmatized. Sometimes it occurs when a loss is overshadowed by “bigger” losses or diminished when many people share the same type of loss. Many secondary losses experienced by people due to the Covid-19 pandemic fall under this category, leading us to stifle our grief process which can intensify feelings of grief.
Experiencing grief in all its stages is important work. It’s not a linear process and takes lots of time and care. The important tasks of grieving include accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain of grief, adjusting to the new normal, and creating an enduring connection to what has been lost.
If you feel stuck on any of these tasks, know that there is help. You do not need to experience grief alone. We have experienced grief counselors on staff who would love to walk with you through your grieving process and provide tools to help you cope with your grief.
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