Grief is the natural response to any kind of loss. When someone we love dies, we go through a process of mourning. How we grieve is different from person to person. What is important is that we do grieve and acknowledge our feelings, fears, and needs as we learn to process the loss.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced grief in a multitude of ways. We have experienced so many devastating losses: the astounding number of lives lost; the cancelled or postponed weddings, graduations, and other milestones of life; the loss of jobs that we loved or businesses that we worked hard to build.
We missed hugs, social gatherings, normal school years, visits to our relatives in nursing homes, and the simple ability to drop in on friends in their homes as we had done before. There were restrictions that kept us from being with our dying loved ones in the hospital and the inability to have funerals. One of my clients said she didn’t cry at her dad’s graveside funeral because she was the only one allowed there, and there was no one to cry with.
A Day to Heal and Open Our Hearts
National Grief Awareness Day, held this year on August 30, is a reminder to take the necessary steps to acknowledge, understand, and accept our feelings and our experiences. It is a day to heal and to open our hearts. It is a day to look at all the many losses in your life and use your resilience and courage to remember, accept, and grow from all you have survived.
Acknowledging that these experiences need to be grieved is a good first step. Follow with these:
Take a minute to realize all you have been through. Take it in. Developing self-compassion allows you to open your heart and allows you to comfort yourself and feel what you feel. It is like getting a hug from a friend. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength to allow yourself access to your feelings. Many people push feelings away because they are too scary or too overwhelming. Or they feel they should be able to handle them so they deny them. This blocks the healing process. I encourage my clients to gather the courage to take on their grief and lean into the pain. It is the way out.
Once feelings are identified and acknowledged, it is now possible to look at our losses with a different perspective. We cannot change what happened, but we recognize that these losses are not changeable.
With self-compassion and open eyes, we can start to see the truth and then slowly we learn to accept what was and what is. It is a process of letting go and understanding that an experience or loss could not be any other way. Letting go does not mean that we don’t still feel sadness or that it is okay. It just means we will learn to live with what happened.
Comforting Traditions Bring Peace
Cultural, religious, and familial traditions can help us with our grief. Many people seek the support of trained grief counselors, psychotherapists, and/or bereavement groups to help navigate the often difficult journey of grief.
The amount of people grieving over the events of the last 19 months and the losses we have all felt has changed our culture and will have lasting effects. We will eventually find a way to remember our loved ones and the way of life that we lost as we learn to live within a “new normal.”
Lenore Guido, MA, GC-C, is the Bereavement Coordinator for Holy Name’s Supportive Care Services/Hospice and Palliative Care. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and is a certified grief counselor. She has been on staff at Holy Name for more than 10 years.
Ms. Guido provides free bereavement counseling for 13 months for family members following the loss of a Holy Name hospice patient. She also leads eight-week bereavement support groups for anyone in the community who has suffered a loss, even if the patient was not treated at Holy Name. For more information, call 201-833-3000, extension 7580.