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In the last 12 months our world has changed so much, and on some level, we have all been grieving over the loss of the world we had.  Living with the threat of something we cannot see has made the world feel unsafe.  And it has made us feel unsettled.  Let us take a moment to explore what has happened and understand how grief is a normal response.

The spring flowers have made an appearance, the days are getting longer, people are starting to book holidays and 40% of the UK population have been vaccinated.  Life is becoming increasingly optimistic.  We are all hopeful normal life will resume, but I can’t help but feel there will be a significant “residue” left for us all.

During this time, people have unfortunately lost loved ones and that is incredibly tragic.  And for some they were unable to be there beside them in hospital for the final moments made even more painful by restrictions placed on funerals.  The pain that will have caused is just incomprehensible.

You may not have lost a loved one, but to some extent we have all experienced losses.

  • Connections with others have drastically changes with social distancing, no physical contact, people unable to visit relatives in care homes.
  • Daily life has felt different with many working from home or furloughed, schools closed, and recreational activities off limits.
  • We have been unable to do the things we enjoy in life with events being cancelled and social gatherings banned.

David Kessler, a grief expert states over the last year there have been losses on top of losses.

Grief is a response to loss and can cause feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and despair.  It can have a physical impact causing difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, illness, and other physical problems.

Kessler suggests we have all been grieving.  Using the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, he illustrates how COVID has impacted over the past year:

  • Denial – We are not going to be affected by this. In fact, Boris Johnson famously said we would be through it in 12 weeks.
  • Anger – Why are you taking away my liberties?
  • Bargaining – Surely if we all just follow the rules, all of this will end?
  • Sadness – I’m missing my friends and family. I just want the virus to go away.
  • Acceptance – OK, we are living with this, I just have to remember hands, space, face. And this is where we start to feel in control.

Kessler further suggests how the pandemic may have triggered old grief.  For example, people may have found themselves wishing a deceased person was still here, thinking they would know how to make them feel better or reassured.

As the world opens again and we start to recover, it is incredibly important to remember everyone will have had their own unique experience and response.  Shared experience is great as it can help with empathy.  However, the statement “I know exactly how you feel” can be problematic since no one can ever fully appreciate the full depth of another person’s experience.

So how can we support ourselves and each other?

  • Identify your losses – Give yourself the opportunity to acknowledge your losses and make time and space to process them.
  • Celebrate the wins – Yes you may feel overwhelmed by feelings of loss, but despite that, you are able to achieve small things within your day. Perhaps you went for a walk or reached out to a friend.  These feats. no matter how small can be recognised and celebrated.
  • Be curious – It is the adage “assuming makes an ass out of you and me”. Where someone is saying they are finding it hard, avoid double guessing.  Be curious and ask what they are finding hard.
  • Respect differences – There is no one or right way to experience loss. People will respond in their own way.

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