We're All Grieving
Everything is being canceled or postponed. Things we worked hard to plan, rehearsed to perform, studied to complete, saved up to explore, looked forward to, or took for granted are now gone for good or moved to a distant or undefined later date. All of the uncertainty, forced change, stress, and anxiety have led to feelings that can be complex and difficult to name. Those complex feelings are likely a combination of lots of different things: fear, sadness, anger, disappointment, and, one that we may not think of…grief.
What is Anticipatory Grief?
David Kessler, expert on grief and loss, calls some of what we are feeling “Anticipatory Grief.” Usually, this is what we feel when we’re about to lose someone or some sort of relationship. What we feel when we know someone we love will die soon; how we feel at the end of a relationship or right before our youngest child graduates from high school. This feeling is widespread and overwhelming right now in a way that we’ve never experienced. Everyone is feeling it at the same time, but about different things.
It may be worry about losing a job, fear that you or your child won’t get to go back to school, sadness for a lost spring break or summer trip, concern over your own health or that of a family member, frustration as you try to adjust to working from home while your kids are also there, disappointment that your child’s baseball season ended before it began, or anger that your prom or graduation has been canceled.
What Can We Do?
Feel It: Because we’ve learned it’s ok to talk about our feelings (which it is), we also tend to question the feelings we have, trying to decide whether they’re ok for the situation. Should I feel sad? Should I feel angry? And sometimes that questioning makes actually feeling trickier. Experts in the area of grief and loss suggest we stop at the first feeling. If you feel sad, feel sad. Ask why you’re feeling sad and try to process the feeling. Don’t question whether you SHOULD feel sad, just process the sadness.
Come into the present: If you find yourself worrying about or mourning something that hasn’t happened or grieving lost predictability of the past, come into the present. Focus on what is around you right now. Focus on breathing and the objects and sensations around you.
Let go of what you can’t control: You are not in control of when or if schools reopen, your job is furloughed or cut back, or if events get postponed or canceled. You ARE in control of how you contribute to the health and safety of your family, how you react to others, and how much and what kind of media to take in. Focus on what you CAN control, and process and let go of what you can’t.
Show compassion: We are in weird situation. Everyone is experiencing it differently, and we won’t all be at our best all the time. It is important to show compassion for the people around you. We’re all trying to adjust and make things as normal and predictable as possible when they aren’t normal or predictable.
We’re all grieving.
You may be grieving something that is objectively more stressful than what someone else is going through, but that doesn’t make their grief less real than yours. You may think that you SHOULDN’T be so upset…it was just a dance recital/baseball season/spring break trip…at least we have stable jobs and food in the pantry! Relative to job loss, mourning a dance recital seems silly. However, it was still something you or your child worked for, paid money and time for, and were looking forward to. Everyone will experience different losses and be affected differently, but they still hurt and need to be processed.
In our lifetimes, none of us have experienced this level of global, overwhelming upheaval and grief. We’re all feeling it, and it’s hard. It’s likely that our “normal” will not be the same after this is over. That’s hard to process, and it will affect everyone to different degrees.
Be kind to one another. Offer help where you can. Accept help if you need it. Remember our common humanity.