“I know it will be alright. It’s just going to take some time. So, hold on in this storm.”
~ Tara MacLean & Catherine MacLellan

It has been snowing off and on over the last few days. Dark clouds, snow, rain, and then clearing to bright sunshine. The changes in our weather have marked the waves of emotion we find ourselves feeling. We were riding out the storm of change, fear, and uncertainty that came with COVID-19. Then the shocking reality of recent tragedies hit our community hard. We are grieving on many levels.

Grief is strange. There are no rules. There is no way we should feel. Grief is invisible, and yet overwhelming at times. We may have no personal connections to the loss that our province has suffered and yet we are hurting. It is our own ability to feel for others and our compassion that creates this pain. We are all feeling the loss.

People are social beings. This means that we need others and relationship to survive. Saying we are stronger together is actually based in science. We need connection like we need the air we breathe. Our community has been creative in the ways we have found connection amid COVID-19 including video chats, telephone calls, social media, an online kitchen party, volunteering to contribute to medical efforts and those in need. This connection is actually like a protective layer to help us cope and make sense of what is going on around us.

Grieving, too, is a shared process. When 9/11 happened, many of us remember where we were and who we were with as the events unfolded. I remember sitting with my co-workers for hours talking, crying and sharing our fears. We grieve together because traumatic loss is too painful to feel alone. Some of us have been very creative in finding ways to grieve through this time but others may feel disconnected, overwhelmed, frozen/numb, and unable to reach for support. Our ability to reach for help may change day to day. This is normal. It is hard but it is normal.

  1. Give yourself time. We must give ourselves permission and grace to take the time to adjust to losses we have all experienced. This ultimately takes time. Time does not change our feelings of incredible sadness and pain but it can dull over time. The work of grief is to seek comfort. Comfort might be a warm cup of tea, listening to soothing music, giving yourself permission to rest, wrapping yourself in soft warm blanket and snuggling with your pet.
  2. Sharing our pain. It is hard to move through and process grief if we do not allow ourselves time to pause long enough in order to feel the pain and express our hurt with others. Our pain is eased when we grieve together in our relationships.
  3. Ritual and celebration of life. We do not have access to our more traditional ways of gathering to grieve. Virtual memorials, posters in our windows, standing in our driveways to honour those lost have been creative ways our community has “gathered.” Ritual is soothing. Lighting a candle, gathering pictures, spiritual rituals like prayer, calling friends to talk about how you feel are some other simple ways to begin to process grief.

It can be scary to think about the mental health of our family, friends, neighbours and larger community. The hope comes from the science of relationship. Keeping people connected to someone, people knowing that they matter, and the sense that someone is thinking about them can make a huge impact on how we heal from grief, even traumatic grief. Pain we share is pain we can bear. Some of us will need formal mental health services to process and heal but many of us will recover by leaning on family and friends. So how can we ensure that no one is left behind?

A Call to Action – Leaving No One Behind:

Would it be possible for community groups that would normally meet for recreation, spiritual practice or service organization to gather virtually and connect with other members? It is through shared experiences that we feel less alone.

Let’s close the gap on those who may be missed. Using our community groups to make a call out list. Divide the list and make an attempt to reach out to every person. Not everyone will want to talk but some will. Others might just appreciate the message you left on their voicemail. Our lifeline through this storm is connection.

Clannad Counselling & Consulting is offering free consults to businesses/ organization and groups on supporting your people. We encourage leaders of all kinds to reach out so we can support you in your efforts to care for your team. If you are in need of support please reach out to us by email: info@clannad.ca or leave a message at (902) 365-3363. We are offering either video or telephone sessions.

We would also like to invite other private practices/therapists in our community to reach out to us if they would like to collaborate and contribute to this initiative. Let’s heal together!

The Hope for Healing Series is written by Michelle MacIsaac MSW, RSW, Kathleen Murphy BEd, MSW, & Annette Bentley, MS.