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Collective Grief

Collage of people

There are times where we are collectively, as a society, hit with a deep sense of grief.

Just this year it seems like a never ending stream of collective grief. The year began with the unimaginable death of Kobe and Gigi Bryant along with a group of their friends and colleagues traveling to a sporting event. The grief among many fans was displayed and palatable for weeks to come. We couldn't have known at this time that this was only the precursor to a much more grief headed our way.

Only weeks later, the Covid pandemic became a daily source of grief as we watched parts of Italy and New York City being besieged in illness and death, wondering what was headed our way. Many of us experienced a complete shelter in place, leaving our work colleagues and friends, thus feeling alone and isolated. Unable to see our parents, or sit with sick loved ones we mourned our "normal" lives. Later, what seemed like a moment later, many of us began to deeply realize the depth of overt and covert racism perversely playing out at every level within our country.

Unexpressed Grief can often look like anxiety and depression. Some people, many of whom ignore the emotional expression, will have more somatic experiences within their physical bodies. stomach pains, nervous tension, back pain, just to name a few. Many will feel profoundly fearful and unsafe. When we avoid feeling our feelings, our bodies tend to express it in their own unique manner.

How to walk yourself and others through these collective emotional upheavals:

  1. Acknowledging that something has happened in the collective that is triggering grief. Noticing deep emotion or exhaustion in the moments or hours after discovering the triggering news.

  2. Allow that feeling to be present and sit with it instead of moving away from it. Grief is one of the absolute most uncomfortable feelings that people coming to counseling are trying to get away from. Remind yourself that the feeling will not hurt you and is a normal response to loss. Recognize that while the sensation is deeply uncomfortable and intense, the energy is completely safe.

  3. Recognize the manner in which you are holding that energy in your body. Where do you feel it most acutely. Most people will notice their throat is constricted, or choking. They may also find a pressure around their heart area. Sometimes, isolating the energy in a part of the body feels more manageable.

  4. Find ways to move through it. Sometimes the feeling just wants to be acknowledge and felt on way passing through your body. The more we allow for these feelings to have a presence, the more they move through us with less effort. The more we push them down and away, the longer they will stay in order to get the attention they need.

  5. Create some sort of ceremony whether writing a letter acknowledging the feelings... or to another person (even someone you don't know) and then burn it with honor and reverence for these feelings. Ceremony is one of the most ancient way of recognizing and honoring something significant that has occurred in life. This sort of ritual has been lost in our culture, but is a powerful manner in which to allow grief to have a voice and release from our body and energy field.

  6. Talk to someone who can truly hear you and hold space for any pain you may be experiencing. Find someone who can teach you the language of grief and help you grow tools to move through these trying times. Sometimes just being heard and seen in our authentic feelings can transform and release grief.

Collective grief means that many people are feeling it at the same time, often in similar manners compared to a very personal grief. Being in community in some manner can be quite helpful in both acknowledging and releasing the build up of grief. As humans, we are built for our feelings and just need support in learning to decode how feelings like grief show up in the body, mind and spirit. Let the knowledge that grief is something that every human being feels soothe your soul and allow you to go on the journey of learning how to work productively with this fascinating energy.


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