Grief. Naming our thoughts and feelings are arguably the first important step in managing them. David Kessler, an expert on grief, and the founder of grief.com has a lot to say about what we all may be experiencing right now.
The world has changed, and we know its temporary, although it doesn’t feel that way. We know things will be different. We fear the loss of normalcy, the economic toll, and loss of connection. It’s all hitting us, and we are collectively grieving. We may be feeling something called anticipatory grief.
Anticipatory grief is when we don’t know what the future holds. We know a storm is coming, but we don’t know how or when. This grief is confusing because it breaks our sense of safety. This is a common feeling in individuals or groups, but now, we are all collectively feeling it.
Understanding the stages of grief is a good place to start when learning how to manage it. The stages are not linear and don’t always happen in this order.
- There’s denial, when we think the virus won’t affect us.
- Then anger, where we may feel upset about our lost jobs and freedoms.
- There’s bargaining, where we rationalize if we isolate for a short time, everything will return back to normal.
- There’s also sadness, where we may experience intense feelings regarding the unknown ending of the virus.
- Finally, there’s acceptance, where we recognize this is happening, and figure out how to adapt.
Acceptance is where the power lies, and we begin to focus on what we can control. Anticipatory grief takes our minds out of the present and into the imagination of the worst-case scenario. We need to learn how to find balance in the things we are thinking of and let go of what we cannot control. The goal is not to ignore our feelings, but to regain control over them.
It’s important we acknowledge what we are going through. We sometimes miss the mark and tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can, and should, stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.
Repurposed from HBR.org, Scott Berinato