“One year.” In reflecting on life from March 2020 to March 2021, the phrase “one year” brings up many images, experiences, and thoughts. Throughout this year we have gotten familiar with the following words and phrases: flattening the curve, social distancing, virtual school, quarantine, positive cases, and vaccine. If we are honest, it is also true that we have become more familiar with anxiety, fear, loneliness, longing and grief.

 

Naming Grief

Early in the pandemic a Harvard Business Review article circulated and resonated with many. The Scott Berinato article titled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” put words to much of what people were feeling but did not know how to talk about. He wrote “If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it.” There is something to be said about the importance of naming grief. Grief is found in the vacuum of what we want and what we have. We want to gather with family and friends, and it is important to keep our circles small. We want to hug, and we socially distance from others. We want to see smiles, and we wear masks. We want “normal,” and we now wonder how to define “normal.”

In a period of time filled with so much communal grief, our ability to stuff it down, deny it, or reason it away has lessened. In their position paper titled “Becoming Grief-Informed: A Call to Action,” Dr. Donna Schuurman and Dr. Monique Mitchell wrote, “The 2020 global pandemic of COVID-19 has brought the normally avoided topic of grief from the background to the foreground, highlighting the need for all of us to become grief-informed.” In their words, a grief-informed stance understands the following, “Grief is complex. You are having a normal response to a complex situation.”

 

Lessons Learned

In this past year, we might have noticed the need to become grief-informed. In fact, we might have become more informed on grief than we would ever want to be. Perhaps in an unwelcomed way, this year provided the opportunity to learn about grief. We have learned that:

  • Grief is hard to define as it is constantly changing even while it doesn’t seem like it is changing at all.
  • One person’s grief looks different from another’s grief and it is not helpful to compare grief.
  • Grief’s reach is wide – impacting sleep, mood, concentration, and productivity.
  • Grief sticks around in ways that are heavy and all encompassing.
  • The “How are you?” question sits a bit different when we are grieving because there just aren’t good words.
  • Caring connection means a whole lot, and disconnection hurts.
  • There is life before and life after grief and perhaps most importantly, there is living through grief.
  • Small actions are difficult and somehow possible.
  • Hope can be found and re-found in each day’s dawn.
  • Healing is in hearing another person say “I hear you” and “me too.”
  • Grief brings dark and invites hope.

 

“Hope begins in the dark,  the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing,  the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

– Anne Lamott

 

Contact Unity Hospice at 800-990-9249 to speak with a grief counselor or visit our website here to learn more about how we can support you. Thanks to generous community donations, Unity’s grief counseling services are offered to the public at no charge.

 

This blog post was shared by Jenny Boeckman, Grief Services Director and Melissa Peters, Grief Counselor at Unity Hospice.

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