Every single one of us right now is grieving the loss of normalcy.
- We’re grieving the cancelation of our spring plans.
- We’re grieving the inability to see friends and family, to celebrate birthdays and major life milestones like prom and graduations.
- We’re grieving the start of baseball season, the end of basketball season, and a whole host of other activities and events that fill our lives with meaning.
- We’re grieving the deaths of people we knew and loved.
We’re grieving even our inability to grieve.
As a culture, the United States is pretty bad at grief. American culture has a fix-it mentality; a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mantra. You can see this all over LinkedIn and Twitter right now.
- Those folks telling you to hustle even harder?
- Those folks explaining how to optimize for the current situation?
- Those folks saying to turn his quarantine into a sabbatical?
Those are all potential fixes to this grief, many of them self-administered.
But in reality, there is no fix to grief. It’s an emotion based on an experience, and it must be felt, it must be tended, it must be invited in to stay its course.
The #1 best thing you can do for people who are grieving is to not sugarcoat their reality.
This too shall pass: Platitudes versus paying attention
No matter how much you believe it, you shouldn’t tell people who are grieving that “Everything is going to be OK.” Or that, “This is all happening for a greater purpose.” Or that, “You’ll find love again.”
These are called platitudes, and they don’t help. What they do, instead, is prove to the griever that you weren’t listening, and they reinforce to the person grieving the thought that they are in this alone.
This is what so many of us are feeling right now as we are told to find gratitude in the little things, to notice how nature is coming back, to appreciate the time we get to spend with the ones we are quarantined with.
These might all be truths. It may help to find gratitude in the small things. The climate is certainly helped by our mass human slow down. The people we are quarantining with are our everything.
…and this still sucks.
That is the phrase that people who are grieving report helps them the most, to hear other people say, “This really sucks.” No apology. No talk of the future. No fix.
This just sucks.
And this pandemic does, and all of us need to collectively hear one another say it.
We all need to be given the permission to truly grieve; to have our pain at the loss of what we expected to be heard and seen.
- We need more leaders to tell their team: “This sucks.”
- We need more parents to admit to their kids: “This sucks.”
- We need more influencers to say it on their platforms: “This sucks.”
And, we need to all say it a little more to each other, because what’s amazing about recognizing the current moment and holding space for a rightful emotion is that it allows that emotion to move on. It signals to our brains that, yes, this experience is real. Yes, this isn’t what I wanted. Yes, this sucks. But, it’s OK, I can do this.
Speaking the unspeakable: Giving grief a voice
Hustle culture won’t help here.
False or forced peace, positivity, or gratitude won’t help here.
Working from home mentalities won’t even help here.
And that’s because we aren’t just working hard from home, trying to be grateful for what we have. We are working hard from home trying to be grateful for what we have during a global pandemic in which people we know and love are getting sick, and could die, or have already died.
Before any of us can move into the mindset of healing that works best for each of us, we first really need to hear how much this sucks, and that it’s OK to grieve what we’ve lost, and what we might lose soon.
They say that optimists are not those who ignore the reality, but instead, those who see the reality, can find a path forward, a silver lining. None of us can be optimists without first acknowledging the hard cloud that hangs over us. And it’s so simple to do. It takes only two words. And I encourage you to say them outloud often to yourself, to your friends and family, and to your team: “This sucks.”
Hold the space for grief. Let it knock at your door, and come in for a cup of coffee. Give it the attention it deserves. Treat it like the guest it is. This too shall pass, but first, it’s going to continue to really, really suck.