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Mourning the Little Things

Do you feel guilty for grieving small losses?

Source: niklas_hamann/Unsplash

In 1776, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Little did he know how true his statement would be over 200 years later. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in a most unusual and challenging time. We are used to grieving a large number of losses from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. But now, the whole world is grieving.

When we think of grief, we usually think of the loss of a loved one. However, we can grieve anything to which we are emotionally attached. We just never realized the number of things to which we were attached.

Some of our attachments might be considered trivial and unimportant to some. But there are also many small losses that we experience that have been a large part of our lives. We are grateful for what we have but can still mourn the way our lives used to be. We miss our old routines and the comfort that comes with having a routine. We miss our jobs and the money that came with it. We miss our get-togethers with our friends, having coffee, lunch, and being in close proximity to others. When someone has lost a loved one, we miss being able to hug or physically comfort them or even go to the funeral. There are no shoulders to cry on. We mourn the loss of human contact and perhaps never realized how important it was to us. We took so much for granted.

We worry about our children and the impact this will have on them. They miss their old routines of school and outside activities, as do we. We grieve the fact that we will not be able to participate in graduations from kindergarten, high school, or college. In addition to graduations, there are other major life events that we will also grieve not being able to attend such as weddings, birth of babies, christenings, bar and bat mitzvahs, proms. The list is endless.

We miss the conveniences of our lives like going to the grocery store and being able to find what we need. We miss going shopping in a brick and mortar store. We also miss going to the barber or hairstylist. We have lost our sense of safety and security. We mourn aspects of our future which are forever changed. We miss the things we use to do to distract us and lower our stress such as working out, attending religious services, watching, and participating in sports. We have lost so much and it is perfectly fine to grieve what was. We can hope for relief in the future but things will not be the same.

It is normal that we miss and grieve the loss of these parts of our lives. Many of these activities helped to define who we are, how we see ourselves, and how others see us. Our grief certainly does not reach the magnitude of the grief following a death, and as a result, many of us don’t want to talk about our non-death related losses. We feel guilty, ashamed, weak, and embarrassed because the situation is so much worse for others. However, it is normal to be upset. After all, our world has turned upside down. It is important to remember that your feelings are valid. They may be different from others but there is no right or wrong in what you feel. We need to give ourselves permission to feel sadness and grief. Some of us might not even be aware that we have been grieving. Grief can affect all areas of our being not just the emotional but the physical and spiritual aspects as well. The first thing we must do is to recognize that our losses are real and affect us. How can they not? We also need to acknowledge our feelings and talk about them with someone whom we can trust and feel comfortable. For example, a friend or family member who is in similar circumstances will likely understand and relate to what you are experiencing.

When grief is not acknowledged it can accumulate and overwhelm us at some later time. Do not deny or minimize what you are experiencing in order to avoid the impact of an even more intense grief response in the future.