The Grief We Feel

The Grief We Feel

Grief is typically associated with the death of a loved one, but it can follow any type of loss. Researchers have spent decades studying different types of loss and one term that is resonating with a lot of people right now is called collective grief.

What is Collective Grief?

Collective grief occurs when a group of people who share something important in common, (such as a city, a country, a race or ethnicity, a religious belief, etc.), suffer a significant loss.

Not only do we experience collective grief after a crisis, such as a natural disaster, pandemic, or a mass shooting, we also experience anticipatory grief as the crisis continues on without a solution. We see that the problem has not been fixed and we anticipate another trauma in the future which leads to anxiety and feelings of helplessness.

Right now, people are experiencing collective grief on many different scales. The pandemic and its associated losses include death of friends and family, loss of jobs and financial security, and fear that the Covid-19 virus could surge again.

Recent mass shootings in schools, grocery stores, and places of worship have resulted in feelings of collective grief that have shaken the nation.

How to Cope with Collective Grief

Identifying and labeling grief as an emotion can be an important step for individuals struggling with loss.  Emotions such as sadness, anger, and lack of control are completely normal in a grief response. Allowing yourself to feel, rather than push away or avoid, these emotions is important. Once you have recognized how you are feeling, you can take steps to move through your grief.

Consider attending a public memorial

Some people prefer to grief privately, while others gain solace and strength from public vigils or memorials. Communities may organize ways to honor and remember those who have died that allow people to come together rather than isolate. Seeing that other members of your community are united can bring a sense of comfort.

Community action

Grieving large scale tragedies can make people feel helpless. Taking action in your community or volunteering in a way that aligns with your values can help. For example, tangible actions such as donating blood, money, time and resources have proven to be ways to help people during the grieving process.

Be mindful of your media consumption

It can be easy to fall into a habit of listening to the news 24/7 or scrolling the internet constantly. As media consumers, we can now be connected to world events in real-time. While this can come with some advantages, it has also been shown to bring on exhaustion and a sense of hopelessness. Be mindful of how much time you spend listening and reading about traumatic events and set limits on daily internet scrolling.

If you are struggling with feelings of grief, you are not alone. Following some of the advice above in addition to recognizing and validating your own grief emotions can help.