Chances are you or someone you know is grieving right now. If not and if you love anyone or anything in this world, you will experience grief some day. As death is the other side of the coin from life, grief is the other side of love: unavoidably and intrinsically connected.
A worldwide pandemic has affected and impacted all of us in some way. Millions and millions of people have died from the virus around the globe. Many people lost their jobs, some lost their homes, most their sense of safety and security. Healthcare workers, social workers, mental health workers have been pushed to their emotional, physical and spiritual limits. Teachers, students and parents. Those who are already oppressed and unseen in our society, people who are elderly, disabled, poor, and those who care for them. We were bombarded with televised public deaths and violence, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and January 6. The clashing of police and protestors in cities around the world. Now there’s war in Europe and just this week a mass murder on a Brooklyn subway.
As humans, we have always experienced death, trauma and the grief that follows, but everything has been intensified and magnified by the stress and trauma of these outsized events. COVID was the first pandemic, but grief is our next. A giant, all-encompassing cloud of grief covers our world and caring for all those affected confronts and challenges us now.
I became a departure end-of-life doula, because I want to remove the stigma, fear, avoidance of and aversion to death. We are mortal. We are going to die. My most fervent and greatest wish is to make communities acknowledge not only that death cannot be avoided, but also that life can be richer, families can be healed, and community bonds strengthened with this acknowledgement. For the past 100 years, death avoidance and aversion has spread through our culture impacted and strengthened alongside and by systems of capitalism, patriarchy, racism and facism. Advertising, popular culture, mega church pastors, our overwhelmed and overworked healthcare system, all of our institutions want to distract us from the fact that we die. Corporations distract us with an unfulfilling productivity-success tail chasing grind. Influencers distract us with platitudes of toxic positivity. Our healthcare system distracts us with technological and medicinal advances and the medicalization of everything about or living and dying experiences.
If our corporations, communities, governments, healthcare institutions, churches, family, and friends cannot acknowledge the universality of death, we certainly cannot acknowledge that grief is also universal. If we cannot talk about death, we will not talk about grief. We are given three days of “bereavement leave.” And we’re lucky for that. Many people cannot be off work to even attend a funeral, much less be with their loved one when they die, without fear of losing a job or losing pay. THREE DAYS. And gods forbid you come back after THREE DAYS and are seen crying at your desk or in the bathroom or in the employee lounge. How uncomfortable for you coworkers! Hope your supervisor won’t catch you staring off into space for a minute while you attempt to quiet your panicked brain or cut through the grief fog and improve your focus. How unproductive! We gave you THREE DAYS, Janice. Your team even signed a condolence card and sent flowers to the memorial service. Why can’t you just focus on your job and if you have to still be sad, or stressed, or tired, or moody, or sick, etc., etc., after THREE DAYS off work, can you do that before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.? Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, Dave. Yes. It is. It is an impossible ask.
Before the rise of embalming and the funeral industry, we acknowledged death and grief. We sat with our dying in our bedrooms and stayed awake with our dead in our parlors. We literally wore our grief on our sleeves, whether it was black clothing, veils or ribbons. Our neighbors, parishioners, shopkeepers, and bartenders work black armbands. We grieved together. And we did it publicly. Those of us in the end of life, death care, dying, and after-death grief care space want us to do that again. To that end, these groups are advocating for, planning and promoting the first National Grief in Public Day on April 23, 2022.
“National Grief-in-Public Day is ultimately a day for awareness to be raised about our global grief crisis. By creating grief-accepting spaces in public, we begin to change the cultural narrative about where grief expression is acceptable.”
What can you do?
“We welcome you to openly share your grief by creating a community altar, sharing photos and stories of loved ones passed, or by simply and powerfully wearing a grieving pin or black ribbon. We all grieve and sharing that grief with no shame or stigma is important for community solidarity and personal healing.”
For my part, I’m planning to share grief and grieving resources, tidbits and such here leading up to the day. My hope is this content will help you feel better about your grief journey or provide things that can help you better understand those around you who are grieving or make you more comfortable talking to those you know and love who are grieving. We could all use advice about how to be more empathetic and compassionate to those in pain. I’m also inviting you to participate by sharing the things above here with us if you wish. Share your grief on your social media and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
Don’t be ashamed that you are grieving. Don’t apologize. I will hold space for you to be safe here to feel what you need to feel. Let’s sit and strive forward together where everyone can see. Much love to you all.