What Can We Do When the Season of Grief Lasts?
Now that the grip of the pandemic is loosening, we are getting on with life the way we once did. As with any great interruption in life, we can experience lingering effects of that season. But there is one topic we tend to bury and struggle to resolve on our own. Grief.
Current statistics estimate 623,044 people in the U.S and 4,059,009 worldwide have been lost to the Covid-19 virus to date. Precious loss of life is tragic enough, yet more suffering has impacted us in the wake of the pandemic. So many of us have suffered the loss of a loved one, not only due to the pandemic, but during the period of restrictions.
The unique aspect of this season is the inability to gather and mourn our losses that traditionally offer comfort. The Western culture is bad enough at expecting grief to fit into a short time frame and from thereafter, dealt with in private.
So where do we stand with processing and expressing our grief?
Society tells us that we need to wrap up that sadness within a few rounds of predetermined grief stages and get back on the fast track of life. What happens when our grief is derailed? What happens when you are still coping with looping patterns of grief that others may not understand?
Unfortunately, the very rituals we count on to ease our intense pain and supply strength were cut off or limited over the last year. Drive through or walk-through visitations were the only source of comfort for a while. All the masks that obscure our expressions and six feet of distance that restrict a much-needed embrace have had an impact on those suffering.
The message here is to take heart. Grief is natural and inevitable with any meaningful loss. It is important to acknowledge your ongoing pain after circumstances you can’t control.
First, take inventory of your own grief journey. Those stages of grief we often refer to were not meant to be hurtles we jump through that end on the acceptance mountaintop. Elisabeth Küber-Ross coined stages in her research with individuals who were facing their own death. No one can or should dictate your experience after loss. Küber-Ross would likely agree with that statement.
Next, admit what you need in order to feel supported now. Visualize a comforting session of talking about your loved one with family or friends, working with an empathic therapist, reading encouraging books about loss, or journaling in your quiet space. The limits imposed for a time have interrupted your ability to fully engage in a support system and demonstrate your natural expressions of emotion. There is nothing wrong with having an updated grief session to talk about your loved one, share tears, and those much-needed hugs months after the event.
Remember your experience with loss is personal. It is yours alone and unique to you. Grief comes in waves and stages are only available to help us know what we might expect, not how we aren’t doing grief correctly. In fact, meaningful loss is simply observed differently throughout our lives. It does not go away. Our loved one goes with us and lives within us through memories. You will be a different you as a result of the influence of your source of sadness and through their absence.
Give yourself extra grace now. Your grief journey was bumpier than what is traditionally observed. We couldn’t gather around our sick or say goodbye as we would want through this season. Don’t be so hard on yourself when an emotion flares up. Memories are a way of carrying our loved ones close and ultimately that is a healthy destination. Time may heal the sting, but time does not remove them from your mind – and shouldn’t. I still tear up when I hear a song my mother loved or see a zinnia blooming even though she has been gone almost eleven years.
If your grief interferes with your daily life and/or goals find professional support. You have a right to seek what is needed to gain your balance in life. Make sure your level of support resonates with you. There is a great deal of research available in books such as the work of John W. James and Russell Friedman. Guides that lead us through an extended path of grief are found in the work of Hope Edelman and Jan Warner as well as many others. As much as we must own our loss, we also must own our journey afterward.
To recap the path ahead:
- Reflect on your personal grief journey.
- Acknowledge your current and missing needs for support.
- Remember your experience is unique to you.
- Give yourself grace – this is hard.
- Reach out for the support you need to gain strength on your journey of growth with your loved one close to your heart.
I encourage you to honor yourself and your loved ones by taking great care of the you that existed before, the you of today, and most definitely the you of the future.