3 minute read

grief and connection

I became familiar with David Kessler’s work on grief and connection at the beginning of the pandemic (remember that? when we were all hoarding toilet paper?). David is a grief expert, and his work touches on all forms of grief, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of connection, or the loss of “normal” which I believe we are experiencing collectively. 

Kessler was interviewed by my all time fave lady, Brene Brown, on her podcast, Unlocking Us. He talked about the pandemic, and how it changed our world, our lives, and us – most markedly, our sense of true connection and belonging, and feelings of isolation.

It’s similar to how 9/11 changed our world. 

At first we had a brief time of solidarity and “we are all in this together” and then that faded as it exposed issues in our society that divide us: who’s to blame, who deserves to grieve, who is grieving correctly, and others. 

Normal changed. 

Life before 9/11 was gone. We grieve that still today.

Life before Covid is gone. We grieve that as well.

I lost my mother to a brain aneurysm when I was 19. It was one of the most traumatic things I have walked through, and I continue to experience the grief to this day in varying degrees. It comes in waves. It’s not just predictable, like her birthday, or Mother’s Day (which I hate even though I am now a mother). Sometimes I just feel lost, lonely, and need a hug from the one person I can’t get one from.

Lately, I have been experiencing a different form of grief. I am grieving my waning sense of empathy, the loss of CONNECTION in the country I live in, and the loss of friends – some because they passed away and others because of social media.

Are you feeling this way?

It’s kind of akin to hopelessness. 

Division, fear and blame are the result of discussing just about every topic.  

Whether it’s masks, vaccines, racism, white privilege, implicit bias, guns, school curriculum, healthcare, gender identity, abortion, climate change, the minimum wage, sexual preferences… the list of shit we can’t talk freely about anymore without fear of it becoming a hateful angry argument is getting longer and longer.  

So we share funny memes about celebrities, and puppy videos. For people who love depth, it’s very unsatisfying. So we retreat to our separate camps and get angrier and angrier and further and further apart.

My work is not political. I coach people on issues that have nothing to do with politics, but a common theme is feeling there are off-limit subjects and the list is getting longer. I have two clients whose spouse’s political beliefs are different from their own, and that is becoming a problem. Things have seemingly become so extreme, they simply avoid conversations that go deeper than superficial. That’s a problem in a marriage and in relationships of all kinds. 

So back to Brene Brown. I always go back to her because she makes sense of my feelings in such a real way. I am a solution seeker, and when I feel shitty, I need tools.

I have a job to do with this life, and I can’t do it without my empathy bone, which seems fractured right now. 

1) How did we get here?

We have turned away from one another, and toward blame and rage. We have sorted
ourselves into “factions” because we have cut ourselves off from real connection with other people.

2) What’s driving that?

– Fear.
– Fear of vulnerability.
– Fear of criticism and failure.
– Fear of getting hurt.
– Fear of looking stupid.
– Fear of disagreeing with the “faction” that we’ve sorted ourselves into and being ostracized from our community.

3) So what are some possible solutions?

– Make an effort to create a true sense of belonging.
– Develop a practice of believing that we are all inextricably connected as humans.
– Move away from fear of saying the wrong thing.
– Move towards people.
– Listen with curiosity.
– Adopt the phrase “tell me more.”
– Resist the urge to prove someone wrong.
– Resist the urge to prove yourself right.

If you are feeling hopeless, I hope you consider the fact that you are not alone. Your problems, perceived or real, ARE NOT UNIQUE. Your fears, perceived or real, ARE NOT UNIQUE. At one point in time, maybe even the very people you point your anger at have felt the same fears, had the same problems, faced the same obstacles, and are experiencing this grief we are all feeling.

One last thing from Dr. Brene Brown: 

“Social media is great for developing community, but true belonging, real connection and real empathy require meeting real people in a real space in real time.”

grief and connection