Dealing with a Sense of Collective Grief

Photo by Yogesh Pedamkar on Unsplash.
Photo by Yogesh Pedamkar on Unsplash.

The light through the window is orange — not the golden glow of a summer dawn, but the amber tint of light through smoke. If I step outside, the air tastes of ash, a bitterness on the tongue.

Friends and friends of friends have lost their homes in the recent fires, a loss greater than things contained in walls. Some of those things once held memory, an emotional resonance that resides only in the head now.

Add all the other disasters that have paraded through since the start of the year, leaving wakes of frustration, anger, and sorrow.

It weighs heavy.

It’s hard to know how to process one’s feelings in times like this, when everything seems like wreckage. David Kessler describes this current feeling as a sense of collective grief — both for a world that’s changing dramatically and an anticipatory grief for “what the future holds when we’re uncertain,” which tends to manifest as anxiety.

Kessler provides several recommendations for dealing with this, such as letting go of what you can’t control, anchoring yourself in the present moment, and stocking up on compassion. “Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief,” noted Kessler, “When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion… If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”

As I attempt to process my own complex vortex of emotions, I have found myself wanting to avoid dealing with my feelings by falling into distractions, online videos and TV that never quite provide the full measure of relief I need. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — sometimes a break from this constant pressure is what’s needed.

However, I personally find that I achieve the greatest sense of relief when I approach the situation in a more grounded way — through journalling, mediation, reading a beautiful book, or running (the last of which I’m holding off on until the smoke clears).

For you, the ways in which you ground yourself and process these feelings may be entirely different. What are the methods that work for you?