Making sense of a changed world – responding to shared grief and loss

by | Apr 25, 2022 | Grief | 0 comments

The last few years has brought many difficulties – the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, wars – but these global events have flow on effects into our daily lives. There is increasing discussion on the ‘collective grief’ within community, for the loss of life or of what could have been – the holidays cancelled, time away from loved ones, or weddings and funerals with only a small group to commemorate.

In speaking with the American Psychological Association, Robert Neimeyer (Doctor in Psychology, specialising in grief and loss) shared “We’re capable of losing places, projects, possessions, professions and protections, all of which we may be powerfully attached to… [it] forces us to confront the frailty of such attachments, whether it’s to our local bookstore or the routines that sustain us through our days.”

We need to be most aware when changes and difficulties in the external world around us start impacting our internal world. Our sense of personal control or capacity to make positive change may be shaken, our inability to tolerate uncertainty is revealed, or it can feel as though usual coping strategies are no longer sufficient.

As we move through these changing times, it can be helpful to

  • Practice acceptance of grief and senses of loss as natural emotional responses to painful events. Grief and sadness reflect that which is important to us, and what we care deeply about.
  • Remember that grief will looks and express differently depending on the individual and the circumstances. It can look like teariness, anger, apathy, numbness, or irritability. For some, grief will be quite transitory, while for many grief will have recurring effects, often hitting like an unexpected wave.
  • Set limits on draining activities (e.g. only 30 minutes of news each day, or maintaining consistent work boundaries).
  • Refocus on those attachments (places, routines, projects, people) that are present and consistent. This helps to re-establish personal senses of security, control, achievement, and depth of social connection.
  • Normalise the need for professional help. For many clients we see, it’s been changes in recent years that has demonstrated the increased need for psychological support, but that first step can still feel hard, or a personal failing.