Dealing with Grief During a Pandemic

man holds head while wearing gloves and mask

By Bruce Santiago

Scott Berinato and David Kessler conducted and published an interview regarding our current pandemic state that has been highly circulated on social media. People have been sharing this article with friends and family, posting it on their wall, and talking about it among themselves. I’ll admit I passed on reading it the first two times it was sent to me, but when I really did open and read it, the article changed my perspective on my feelings during this pandemic and put words to what was going on internally with me. 

The article is titled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief”, and when I had originally seen those words, my instinctive reaction was “Oh, no one I know is dying yet so I can’t be grieving”. I thought the article didn’t apply to me or my experience. When I finally did read it at the urging of a close friend, I was blown away. The article did such a great job of explaining concepts about how grief works in relation to the coronavirus and how the phrases we hear or even say every single day are reflective of stages of grief. “This will be over soon” could be seen as denial, “If I stay inside, we’ll have restrictions lifted at the end of April” could be seen as bargaining, etc. 

The idea of anticipatory grief really hit home for me, and I realized that that phrase embodied my thoughts and feelings around COVID-19 exactly. I (incredibly thankfully) can’t point to a direct loss I have experienced other than having to cancel plans, events, and celebrations. Everyone I know who has had the virus has (again thankfully) recovered. But the uncertainty, that nagging idea that something bad is around the corner because my loved ones and I have made it through this so far, the worries and the what-ifs that sneak in if I let my thoughts wander, the sadness and feelings of depression that I can’t really pin down as caused by anything in particular, those thoughts and feelings are a very real part of my life in the time of pandemic.

I liked how David Kessler validated the fact that we as smaller societal groups, as states, as a country, and even as humans who are part of the world have not experienced this level of collective grief in a long time if ever, and it feels foreign to us. We don’t know what to do or how to process something that has not necessarily happened yet or that we aren’t quite sure of the impact. We can only manage or control our own responses to our feelings and focus on what actions to take in our own lives that will help us progress through our own stages of grief and recognize that most other people around the world are doing so as well. They might not be in the same stage of grief as us or dealing with reality in the same way, but as humans we are collectively grieving. 

I highly encourage you to read through the brief interview (don’t wait until the third time you get it like me!) and use that knowledge to realize you’re not alone in this, your feelings are valid just the way they are, and we will find meaning in this experience.

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