Despite enjoying the sunniest days we have had in months, many of us actually feel like we are in the dark. Even with clear and bright skies, questions may flood our minds: When will this end? How does ongoing uncertainty affect us? What even is it that is affecting us?
On this topic, Harvard Business Review writer Scott Berinato recently conducted an interview with David Kessler, a grief specialist who has taught and worked with physicians, nurses, counsellors, police and first responders. Their focus was how to cope with and to help others face end-of-life grief and trauma. Interestingly enough, this topic turned out to be highly relevant to our current situation.
In the discussion, Kessler talks about the value of experiencing grief. While grief might sound like a big experience with no place in our day-to-day, can you see how this pandemic is creating loss all around us? Consider losing routines, income and a safe sense of normalcy. Kessler also discusses the value in letting ourselves experience anticipatory grief — feelings of loss over what realistically could happen. For example, it is more imaginable now that our own health, or the health of someone we love, is at risk. It is healthy to let ourselves experience the grief of losing normalcy, or even anticipatory grief, and it is argued that we should not seek to escape from these feelings.
Kessler points out that what we do want to protect ourselves from is anxiety — a state of worry that is often non-productive. While grief is a functional emotion that reminds us who we are, what we value and what attracts our love, anxiety is often simply a state of worry that does not serve us well. Although it is normal to imagine uncertain and unpleasant future possibilities, we need to balance out these frightening possibilities with calming thoughts and a healthy resolve to continue living with purpose and meaning and to manage what will come. Needless to say, this is easier said than done! It is, however, something worthy of exploration, and something we can explore together.