Contributions by: Brayden Ransom, Mental Health Connecticut’s Marketing and Communication Assistant, John Woods, and Patricia Seaver (Griffin)
National Grief Awareness Day, founded by Angie Cartwright in 2014, hopes to encourage open communication on loss, raise awareness of the myriad ways in which individuals cope with loss, and better inform the public on the facts of grief.
What is Grief?
Grief is the hurt we feel when we have suffered a loss. Unfortunately, all of us will experience grief at some point or another.
Stages of Grief:
According to VeryWellMind, “As we consider the five stages of grief, it is important to note that people grieve differently and you may or may not go through each of these stages, or experience each of them in order. The lines of these stages are often blurred—we may move from one stage to the other and possibly back again before fully moving into a new stage.”
Everyone will have a unique experience grieving a loss. The toll it takes on our mind and bodies to lose a loved one is a pain we cannot prepare for. In those moments acts of self care, grounding exercises, self-affirmations, hope, seeking support and comfort may slowly add up to help you manage the pain.
When the world came to a drastic, immediate halt in response to the impact of COVID-19, life as we knew it stopped right along with it. Seemingly overnight, our kitchens became classrooms and/or remote offices, our social traditions became limited to celebrations through a computer screen, and suddenly masks became a required piece of our daily lives during our few outings. It was not uncommon for many, including those whom have yet to struggle with conditions such as depression or anxiety, to experience such symptoms at debilitating levels. Many people having such responses to the impact from the pandemic were unsure how to identify the root of these feelings, why they were feeling so “off”? While it’s not abnormal to associate the word “grief” with death, especially in light of the millions lost to COVID-19 worldwide, it’s important to appreciate the complexity of the true experience of the various aspects of the grieving process. Although there are many additional areas of the overall grief process at broad, in response to COVID-19 specifically, experiencing the following may seem familiar:
- Anticipatory grief: referred to as anticipatory loss or preparatory grief, is the distress a person may feel in the days, months or even years before the death of a loved one or other impending loss. “It’s the experience of knowing that a change is coming, and starting to experience bereavement in the face of that,” says Allison Werner-Lin, Ph.D. Feelings are related to the loss of what was or what you thought life was going to be like.
- Normal grief: Contrary to what the name might suggest, there really are no set guidelines to define normal grief in terms of timelines or severity of grief. Many people define normal grief as the ability to move towards acceptance of the loss. Those who experience normal grief are able to continue to function in their basic daily activities.
- Collective grief: Collective grief is felt by a group. For example, this could be experienced by a community, city, or country as a result of a natural disaster, death of a public figure, or a terrorist attack.
- Cumulative grief: This type of grief can occur when multiple losses are experienced, often within a short period of time. Cumulative grief can be stressful because you don’t have time to properly grieve one loss before experiencing the next.
- Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged+): Complicated grief refers to normal grief that becomes severe in longevity and significantly impairs the ability to function.
- Disenfranchised grief (ambiguous): Disenfranchised grief can be felt when someone experiences a loss but others do not acknowledge the importance of the loss in the person’s life.
As a society, we have collectively grieved various aspects of ones’ lifestyle, in both maco and micro ways. Without minimizing losses our friends’ and neighbors’ may be experiencing, such as in response to the loss of a loved one, it’s important to identify and embrace our own individual need to grieve as well. We are experiencing the loss of our schedules, routines and typical relationships. Some of us are grieving the loss of security and sense of safety. The fear of the unknown that the future holds can understandingly cause anxiety as this health crisis continues to change. From so much loss, the last year and half has provided us with the opportunity to better understand and hopefully therefore experience more empathy for others. The daily errands we once dread, we found ourselves missing in isolation, missing the opportunity for human connection, however big or small each day. Beyond accepting what we have loss, let us all find meaning. As we re-open our cities, embrace new changes, may we take with us the value within the many privileges we have in our everyday lives.
When you are grieving a loss, it is not untypical to want to keep to yourself, but sharing your feelings with whomever you feel close to can help you cope and remember you are not alone.
Check out these suggestions provided by National Today on how to celebrate National Grief Day:
- Support a grieving friend
“If a friend has been honest with you and shared a current story of grief or loss, today is the day to be an extra shoulder for them to cry on. While acknowledging that everyone processes their feelings differently, offer to support your friend in whatever way they need.”
- Engage in self-care
“In the throes of grief, a normal human response to loss, self-judgment, and anger are not productive emotions. Rather than attempting to push yourself onto an acceptable “grieving timeline,” remember that there is no one path for those in mourning, and engage in self-care by letting yourself feel whatever you’re feeling.”
- Post #NationalGriefAwarenessDay
“Help National Grief Awareness Day accomplish its mission of educating the public on grief by sharing what you’ve learned on social media. Creating space for any kind of reaction to loss is healthy for you, and might just be what someone in your social circle needed to see.”
Contact MHC’s Information Line