What’s Loss Got to Do with It: Loss in Time of COVID-19
Photo by: Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Here at the Thrive Center, we strive to promote a vision of thriving for all. Part of that vision is to support our community during times of uncertainty. I’d like to take a moment to raise our awareness around a topic many may be uncomfortable discussing, but most are experiencing: loss. In this post, I’d like to normalize the collective loss we are experiencing and propose ways you can approach these feelings with compassion and grace. The hope is that we can all feel what we are feeling, gain a deeper understanding of all of our emotions and direct them in a meaningful way that is adaptive and health focused. In a follow-up blog, I am going to discuss how the act of “meaning-making” can serve as a cushion for our feelings connected to loss and how it can facilitate healing during this uncertain time.
David Kessler, a healing and loss expert, said something on a podcast with Brenè Brown last week that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “The worst loss is ALWAYS your loss.” I’m no stranger to loss. In fact, I have made it my life’s work. In my personal life, I have experienced an unusually high amount of loss. These experiences have led me on a professional path to deepen my understanding of how individuals and families heal, recover, and even thrive through the experiences of loss.
Over the last week, I had noticed that I had been comparing the losses in my life with those of others and minimizing the pain I was feeling. I was doing the big “no, no” in grief—comparative grieving—that is, comparing my grief to others. My family is safe and healthy, their basic needs are met. Although I know people in my life who are diagnosed with COVID-19, they seem to be on the road to recovery. I found myself cycling between shame and guilt and asking myself, “How could I possibly be experiencing loss right now when others have it so much worse.”
“The worse loss is always your loss.”David Kessler
This simple statement gave me permission to actually feel what I have been feeling.
If you were to take a moment and inventory of all the loss being experienced by each member in your family, it’s likely that you would have an overwhelmingly long list. In my own world, my kids are experiencing the loss of normalcy, the potential loss of spending their summer in California, and the loss of their spring and summer sporting activities. For my husband, it’s the loss of not being able to be in the delivery room when our baby enters this world. For me, it’s the loss of not knowing when my family will be able to meet their grandbaby, the loss of not knowing what life looks like from week to week, and the loss of the narrative I created around bringing a new life into this world.
I think it’s extremely important to normalize and name what we are feeling. Our world is facing catastrophic and collective loss. Loss is not the only phenomenon occurring right now. We have also lost the many ways we would normally pacify the feelings that come with experiencing loss. We are being forced to sit with our feelings, all of our feelings! The fast pace of life for many families pre-COVID didn’t allow for a recognition of the feelings that made us uncomfortable. It was an auto-pilot rush to pacify, cover, quickly replace in order not to feel discomfort.
Learning to Feel In Order to Heal
What if we gave ourselves a little grace and mercy, and used this time to understand our feelings of loss and the function they serve right now? In order to do this, we could start to approach our emotions with non-judgmental compassion. Our emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are. Emotions are simply raw data for how we are interpreting our world. Far too often, we want to rush through the uncomfortable feelings and push them away in order to replace them with more “positive/good/acceptable” ones. I invite you to “feel in order to heal.”
Here are some ways to hold your emotions—no matter what they are right now—with love, compassion, and grace:
1. Do a daily loving kindness meditation.
This activity will help you develop an awareness of, and gain a loving appreciation for all the emotions you are feeling.
2. Write a letter to love and from love.
This activity described on TED Connects by Elizabeth Gilbert is a long-standing practice she personally uses for cultivating compassion around all emotions.
3. Name your emotions.
Remember when I said emotions are data? You need to feel them before you can heal them and, in order to feel, you need to name. Use an emotions wheel when you’re unable to discern what you’re feeling.
 Kessler, D. (2019). Finding meaning: The sixth stage of grief. New York: Scribner.