Ann Siverling, MDiv., BCC, MBA
“I think I am going crazy!” is the phrase I hear the most often from people in the middle of their grief. As a bereavement coordinator, the first thing I do is assure people that they are NOT going crazy; they are just grieving, and grief is unfamiliar, confusing and uncomfortable.
Grief is both universal and individual—universal in the respect that we all have or will grieve a loss or losses in our lives and individual in the respect that we all have our own way of grieving.
Grief and the pandemic
This unusual time of living in and through a pandemic has only intensified the grief we are feeling. Grief is now an everyday occurrence for most people. Our grief has put all of us on edge, has increased our anger and our sadness. Perhaps now we all feel like we are collectively going crazy. We’re not—we’re just all trying to do the work of grieving at the same time.
According to the definition taken from the “Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota” website, grief is “a natural and normal response to a loss that can impact you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Grief is caused by the loss, which is defined as “the state of being deprived of or being without something that one has had; the fact or process of losing something or someone.”
In addition to the losses of life we expect like the death of a great-grandparent, people have experienced unprecedented loss on many levels during the pandemic. Losses include:
- Time with family
- Being with our loved ones as they are sick or dying
- Memorializing family after they die
- Security of life remaining as it always has
- Being in one’s normal workplace
- Ability to travel
- Ability to gather in large groups for things like concerts, plays and sporting events
- Our usual way of doing things
And now, in addition to all of this, we are standing on the threshold of the holidays, and holidays always seem to make our feelings of grief even more acute.
So, as we venture into our shared time of grief, let’s examine some grief myths, some grief truths and some suggestions for experiencing grief.
Common myths about grief
- The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
- It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
- If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
- Grief should last about a year.
- Moving on with your life means you’re forgetting the one you lost.
- Friends can help by not bringing up the subject.
- Grief follows a logical, linear pattern.
- The goal is to “get over” grief.
- Tears expressing grief are only a sign of weakness.
- Time heals all wounds.
- Just keep busy.
- You need to be strong for others.
- It’s just easier to replace the loss.
A few simple truths about grief
In my work as a bereavement coordinator, I try to steer people away from the myths and to these truths.
- Grief is not a disease
- We do not “recover” from grief.
- Instead, we walk through it, in often not very straight lines.
- No one’s grief is greater or less than someone else’s grief.
Coping with our multi-layered grief
So, having taken away the myths, what can we do as we all travel our grief together? As women, who by nature tend to work more collaboratively, we may find ourselves to be especially and inherently equipped to engage in these coping strategies. This is a gift that women can utilize to help themselves and others cope with their grief. A few suggestions for coping with grief are:
- Share your stories—we won’t feel so alone or quite so crazy in our grief when we share the stories of our loved ones.
- Listen to one another—to listen to one another is to provide sacred space to share our grief.
- Be patient with one another .
- Treasure each moment we have with those we love.
Ann Siverling, MDiv., BCC, MBA
Hospice Bereavement Coordinator
Mayo Clinic Hospice, Rochester
Hospice Office: 507-284-4002
200 First Street SW Rochester, MN 55905