Embrace our relationships in their beauty, and in the presence of our miseries
By Sergio Pino
Accepting that we do not know precisely what we are facing, no matter how much experience we have in the exercise of any discipline, is one of the realities of this Covid-19 health emergency. It has reminded us that there are unprecedented circumstances for the social fabric or the human skeleton. One of them is Grief.
Grief is part of life. It is an overwhelming reaction to death, divorce, job loss, move, or loss of health due to illness. It can also occur after disasters or other traumatic events – such as months spent locked up and in fear of being infected. The pandemic has made grief much more difficult. Grief and pain situations are often isolating and distressing themselves. But the isolation caused by physical estrangement has created an increased anguish that extends the grieving process. (Rando 1984)
The grief and desolation generated by the loss of a job, a relationship or in the worst case a loved one is further complicated by the restrictions that have been imposed due to Covid-19. Many of the typical support components are not available these days, making grieving much more difficult and complicated. Traditional support, bereavement or funeral services are not an option, and neither is hugging a friend, sharing a meal, or even saying goodbye in person to a loved one.
A friend can be an invaluable presence during physical distancing. When you are grieving, if a constant presence can be offered, this is one of the best ways to support you, and is still possible even with physical distancing. If funeral ceremonies are not an option, you may be helped by the creation of private or virtual rituals.
We can connect with friends and loved ones regularly. Ask if they prefer the phone, a text message, or a video call (where technology allows). Talking can be one of the most beneficial things after a significant loss and especially a death, so just let the person share how they feel and anything they want to share about the loss they are suffering or the loved one they lost. Reconnecting weeks or months after a death, when all condolences have subsided, can be especially important, since that is often when the pinnacle of loneliness is reached.
In many cases, loneliness affects our spirituality, which is built and strengthened in community. Spirituality is the knowledge, acceptance, or cultivation of the immaterial essence of oneself. Human spirituality is defined as the consciousness of a part of us that does not manifest itself materially and that is linked to something superior to all living beings. (Maitri 2000) As Vygotsky argued, any function in cultural development appears twice, or in two planes: first on the social plane and then on the psychological plane. (Wertsch and Stone 1999) This pandemic has opened and made visible needs that otherwise, society would have taken a long time to accept as necessary realities. As Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote in The Wounded Healer: “Compassion is born when we discover in the center of our own existence not only that God is God and man is man, but also that our neighbor is really our fellow man… But human withdrawal is a very painful and lonely process because it forces us to directly face our own condition in all its beauty as well as misery.”
According to experts, the extent to which we experience grief is individualized and based on our personality, previous experiences of loss, and our environment or support system. (Davis 2018) It is here that the creativity of our social relationships is needed. Given the new style of socializing thanks to Covid-19, we must embrace our relationships in their beauty, and in the presence of our miseries.
Maitri, S. The spiritual dimension of the enneagram. Penguin 2000.
Davis, K. Cultivating Resilience. ChiPPS E-Journal Pediatric Palliative and Hospice Care 51 (May 2018), pp. 24-34.
Rando, T. A. Grief, dying, and death: Clinical interventions for caregivers. RPC 1984.
Wertsch, J. V., and C. A. Stone. The concept of internalization in Vygotsky’s account of the genesis of higher mental functions (1984). In Lev Vygotsky: Critical assessments, vol.1, ed. P. Lloyd. T&F 1999, pp. 363-380.