opinion

That feeling we’re all feeling: The weight of universal grief.

There’s a feeling we’re all feeling.

It doesn’t belong to me and it doesn’t belong to you. It sits in a bedroom in Wuhan and a hospital ward in New York and a studio apartment in Milan. It’s here and it’s there and it’s impossible to find a place where it isn’t.

It reaches into every home and every town and it stole your mid-year holiday but it stole her father and his wife and a 95-year-old man is alone in his home and a mother of four just lost her only source of income and a business built on hope and hard work just closed its doors and it’s all a maze that has no way out.

You get lost in the dead ends.

The feeling probably keeps you awake at night. Your mind invents worries that six months ago would’ve been consistent with Generalised Anxiety Disorder but now are very real threats. Your anxiety is logical. Normal. An accurate reflection of the current State Of Things.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19. Post continues below.

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It’s late at night, and the person laying beside you, or in the next room, or in the house next door, is probably awake too. They’re feeling that same feeling. A feeling that brings with it thoughts we don’t want to say out loud because if we do we transmit them to others, burdening them with another worry they might not have thought of yet.

Part of what we’re feeling is anxiety. Rage. Disappointment. Powerlessness. But even more than all that – we’re overwhelmed with profound and uncomfortable grief.

David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief, says we are grieving the loss of the world as we knew it. “We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air,” he says.

Grief coats the sky much like the thick smoke that enveloped our cities only two months ago. It felt like for a whole season we couldn’t play in parks or walk around the block or swim in the local pool, because our air quality was so awfully compromised. Fragments of ash settled in our hair, and our sky was no longer blue but grey, as though we were stuck in twilight for days at a time.

And it seemed that at the very moment our fires were extinguished, the outside became menacing for a new reason.

We are grieving the lives we used to lead, the small joys we took for granted.

We are grieving holidays that were cut short or we never got to take, months or years of savings lost because of something we couldn’t have anticipated.

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We are grieving weddings and birthdays, Easter and baby showers, events that made up the very fabric of our lives.

We are grieving jobs we lost, offices that are now dark and silent, and industries like travel and hospitality that gave our lived experience colour.

We are grieving routines that kept us sane.

We are grieving the loss of physical touch, and the friends and family we no longer see.

We are grieving what feels like an entire year of our lives, plans put on hold, experiences evaporated.

We are grieving more than 50,000 lives lost. Death sends a ripple effect through every community it touches – reminding us of our own wretched mortality.

We are grieving for the more than one million people in the world who are sick. And who are scared.

Usually our grief exists in the micro, like the loss of someone we love. Or just in the macro, like the tragedy of September 11. But right now we are suffocated by the micro and macro hitting us both at once, and we find ourselves fighting a battle on two fronts.

Therapist and author Esther Perel says that grief will help us make sense of what’s going on. It helps explain why we’re all so exhausted.

For some of us, she explains, we are grappling with impending loss. It’s what Kessler refers to as “anticipatory grief”, a sense that “there is a storm coming… there’s something bad out there.”

We are being told that we haven’t seen the worst of it.

Is this how it feels to see a car the second before it hits you?

Perel likens the feeling to being at the beginning of a horror film, aware that people will die, and the world in front of you will fall apart before it’s put back together again.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the universality of suffering right now, it’s that most of humankind, for a moment in history, are feeling the same thing.

Confined in our homes, largely deprived of physical touch, we have never been more connected.

We spoke about the feeling of anticipatory grief on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

There are varying degrees and this crisis will touch all of us in different ways. It will make us behave in different ways. But grief, however big or small, is something we all share right now.

We know that once you name a feeling, you are one step closer to accepting it. And in acceptance, we can find some semblance of control.

We also know that what we’re feeling is temporary. This grief will pass.

But right now, whether you reside within four walls in Madrid or Tokyo or Sydney or Stockholm, we are all feeling the same feeling.

And how beautifully human is that?

Feature Image: Getty.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

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