The Power of G.R.I.E.F.

It was exactly this time last year that we were collectively thrown into utter shock and lockdown necessitated by the life-threatening perils of the covid – 19 crisis. The pandemic brought tidal waves of compounded losses, unlike anything we have experienced in modern times. Our lives changed in the blink of an eye.  This collective grief forced us to quickly create and adopt new coping tools and skills while trying to manage living a “new normal” we had not yet experienced. We were not prepared. This year has taken a real toll on every aspect of our being – physical, emotional, mental, financial and spiritual. And yet, in the face of extreme adversity, we have found ourselves becoming more resourceful, creative, connected and resilient in ways we never imagined. No matter what important roles we assumed during the pandemic this past year, whether at home, at work, or in our communities, on the front lines, or behind the scenes, we have made some valuable contributions to help others in need.  We have all been touched through the power of G.R.I.E.F. This type of grief is referred to as situational grief, the kind that results from a traumatic life event such as the pandemic. 

This month’s POWER series message invites you to make G.R.I.E.F. your friend versus foe. In doing so, my hope is that you may give yourself greater permission to simply allow yourself to B.E. with any feelings that bubble up rather than judge, criticize, stuff or avoid them. The key is to offer yourself larger doses of self – compassion, self – love, self – acceptance and radical self – care.  I was reminded yesterday by my teacher during the gift of my group meditation class that “tenderness can be so powerful.”  www.pausetobepresent.com

If you are one of those individuals who is uncomfortable sitting and being with any emotions related to grief and loss such as sadness, anger, irritation, shame, awkwardness, lethargy, confusion, anxiety, isolation and powerlessness – perhaps you may find my acronym for G.R.I.E.F. helpful.  

I believe G.R.I.E.F. stands for “great relief in expressing feelings.”

This list will provide a broader context to include any number of losses you may have experienced in the past year. Note which ones apply to you: 

  • Loss of a loved one through death
  • Loss of personal safety
  • Loss through separation or divorce
  • Loss of a job or an entire career
  • Loss of friends and community after a residential move
  • Loss through a temporary medical illness
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of role identity as a result of passing through one life stage to another 
  • Loss of financial security 
  • Loss of physical connection to family, friends, co-workers and fellow volunteers
  • Loss of pleasurable outlets including social, cultural and sports entertainment and vacation getaways
  • Loss of consistency and stability that came from having a familiar routine and structure
  • Loss of a normal childhood education with the highest standards of support and excellence.
  • Loss of the life that was

In May 2020, 2 months into the pandemic, Harvard Business Review published an interview with David Kessler titled “The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief.

David Kessler is the world’s leading foremost expert on grief and a protégé of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the swiss psychologist and pioneer of the 5 step Kubler Ross grief model. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html

In the interview, Kessler encourages his readers to permit themselves to fully feel their grief as he states the following:  

“When you name your grief, you feel it, and it moves through you. We tend to focus on immediacy, youth, and whatever is on our to – do list today. We avoid contemplative reflection. But grief has a way of permeating our hearts and lives when we don’t give it space.  Emotions need motion. We must acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — and we ought to — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness, fear, and anger whether or not someone else feels something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an organic way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”

As a result of the pandemic, each of you has your own unique and powerful “story” regarding the feelings you have regarding the various losses you have endured and your ability to simply B.E. with these feelings. You may have even felt especially triggered and flooded emotionally at times by these feelings; based on other times in your life when you felt a painful loss. This is normal and alerts us to ask ourselves, what is it that I really need right now? How and where can I get this need met? 

I was moved to write this article as I thought about the one-year mark of us moving through the pandemic and growing stronger together. I was also moved to write on this topic for March as today, March 19, marks the 47th anniversary of my father, Conrad Alper’s death at the age of 48. Each year, I honor him with extreme pride, joy, happy memories, and connection to the amazing human being he was. My dad was a gifted veterinarian and people lover. His compassion and zest for life touched many. Having experienced his profound loss at the age of 11, I’m no stranger to the process of grief. I know what it takes to personally work through the healing process while finding healthy, positive and productive ways to pay it forward and help others to do the same. Here’s my story: https://www.careerleverage.net/about/.

Upon reflecting on your feelings from this past year and your unique evolving story, below are some reflection questions explore with yourself as you move forward into the springtime of renewal: 

  • What silver linings can I be grateful for that emerged out of the pandemic? How will I use this knowledge as a force of good in the world? 
  • Based on the various categories of losses I listed in this message, what clarity have I gained about my unique experience and evolving life story? How has my G.R.I.E.F. helped me grow as an individual? How can I use my growth to have a meaningful impact on others? 
  • What blind spots were revealed as a result of the involuntary PAUSE in my life? What techniques can I incorporate into my life to invite a voluntary PAUSE each day? What will I do with that new awareness moving forward? How can I find new ways to serve myself and others better? 
  • What other truths can I take with me moving forward into this new phase of expanded purpose and renewed freedom?  What’s one new area of my humanity I can embrace? 

Finally, if the grief you’re experiencing is persistent and of greater concern, always seek professional help from a mental health counselor. See “Grief: What’s normal and what’s not – and 13 tips to get through it.”  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/grief-whats-normal-whats-not-and-13-tips-to-get-through-it/

To end my message on an inspirational note, I’ll share with you my secret for experiencing the Power of G.R.I.E.F. and the best way to tap into that power. 

Find ways to create MEANING in your life as the “incentive” to feeling the discomfort of uncomfortable feelings.  As the saying, bear the discomfort and the comfort will come. Here’s to embracing all of your feelings and seeking ways to MAKE MORE MEANINGFUL MEMORIES moving forward. 

Stay healthy and be safe. 

Are you ready to take action and be accountable for your desired results?

Do you want challenge yourself to grow professionally and personally? If your answer is YES to both for creating sustainable change, then contact Nancy to learn more about the steps for getting there.

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Nancy Friedberg

Nancy Friedberg, M.A.

Master Coach and President, Career Leverage, Inc.
Marshall Goldsmith Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach
Certified Now What? Facilitator

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