I have been thinking a lot about grief recently. How grief is deeply personal, is nonlinear in its stages, how it pervades every aspect of our lives regardless of our conscious awareness of the emotions in real time. I have been thinking about all the things there are to grief right now – the incomprehensible reality of over 200,000 dead, the grief of losing our ‘normal’ lives, the loss of hugs, of jobs, of not being able to be with family this holiday season. The loss of homes, trees, wildlife, childhood playgrounds to fire. The grief of watching our country lose the ability to have civil conversation with those who hold different political beliefs. I have been struck by how few people are naming and meaningfully speaking to these current causes of grief, focusing more on how our current climate is affecting our work productivity, our children’s education, our ability to interact with the world around us. C.S. Lewis poignantly said in his A Grief Observed, “There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says.”
Moving through an increasingly polarized environment, I find myself thinking about the causes of the animosity I see. As I reflect on the last few months, I think about how we have not had a national moment of mourning for the lives lost to this pandemic. Many write and speak of a splintered country incapable of coming together at this time. It’s a struggle some days, but I’m not convinced it is too late for us. I feel we as a country are yearning for something to take in, together – something beyond ourselves to aid us in the necessary process of grieving and healing from so much loss. In 2019, David Kessler expanded on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ original grief framework to add a sixth stage of grief: meaning. He speaks of the relationship between grief and love, and their deep connection to each other: “grief is optional in this lifetime. Yes, it’s true. You don’t have to experience grief, but you can only avoid it by avoiding love. Love and grief are inextricably intertwined.” You cannot have one without the other.
These days, I’m trying to focus on the love held within my grief, whatever it is that forces me to peak around that invisible blanket between the world and me. The love associated with childhood haunts, far away friends, passion for our work. These memories will bring us through this dark time, and allow us to move through the grief to make space for more love.