On grief and grieving: How we’re processing the impact of Coronavirus

April 22, 2020

Tout ira bien. Someday.

Grief. At the first sound of it, the idea of grieving our current upheaval seemed a tad extreme. Shouldn’t such a heavy emotion be reserved for life’s most intimate tragedies?

In those first weeks after the Conseil Fédéral announced that the worst-case scenarios could only be avoided by an unprecedented exercise in community solidarity, we were dizzy managing the fallout professionally and personally. We completely ignored the growing anxiety and overwhelming sadness we’d felt by the losses that this whole crazy turn of events entailed.

But, grief? No. At least we were healthy; our families and friends were healthy. Our hearts were heavy for those who were not as lucky. At best, we were standing on the sidelines of grief, acutely aware of its presence but merely as anxious observers.

As the days rolled on and the chaos burrowed deep within us, the stiff upper lip act broke down. We sent each other tearful messages; we came face to face with our limits and found ourselves unable to overcome them as we had in times of stress before.

Our new business, fresh off the ground, collapsed overnight. Years of dreaming and preparation, gone? We’re still not sure. People close to us DID get sick. The deadlines became less clear, and we braced – with everyone across the globe – for a prolonged fight, both for our health and our economies.

Grief. Suddenly, we allowed ourselves to give our emotions a name.

In an interview given to Harvard Business Review the world’s preeminent expert on grief and grieving David Kessler explains:

We’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different…The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

The article goes on to argue that by naming what we’re feeling, we can begin to understand our reactions as stages of grief, just as you would after experiencing profound personal tragedy. Anger, denial, sadness, bargaining, acceptance. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Although it’s been circulating on social media for several weeks now, we wanted to share Kessler’s interview with you. On a call over the weekend, we both acknowledged how powerful it had been for us to recognize our emotions as grief, and we thought that maybe some of you might find this helpful as well.

Perhaps most importantly, Kessler argues that by naming grief – and by effectively staring it down – we don’t become its victim. And as we prepare for the upcoming, awkward phases of deconfinement, this is critical.

We know we won’t be going back to “normal” life; emerging back into the world will mean learning how to be a citizen, a friend, a neighbor in a time when loving might mean keeping our distance. It’s antithetical. And for many of us, heartbreaking.

The Lausanne Guide has always existed to connect you, our beloved readers, with the physical space and people that surround you. We’ll continue to do that in creative and novel ways, but we’d be lying if we said it doesn’t grieve us to put dreams of gatherings and encounters with you aside for a time.

We can’t begin to wrap our minds around the sadness that each of you must be feeling about your own losses, many of them far more profound than our own. And yet, there are glimmers of joy in knowing that some aspect of this grief transcends our personal stories – that we’re in this together.

When it’s safe, we’ll find each other again. And we’ll rebuild this beautiful local community and local economy with renewed purpose.

See you soon, friends. Until then, we’re grieving with you.

Sarah and Tanya


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