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  • Chloe Wilkins

2020 a year of loss & grief

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

It’s not ‘Zoom’ fatigue.

It’s a bit surreal reflecting on the New Year. What’s so new about it? I am writing this piece from my office/classroom/kitchen table, in my ‘day’ pajamas, reeling in the disbelief that I have been operating like this for over 10 months. I don’t see much change here in January and I think I have reached my capacity on self-help articles for home exercise routines, ergonomics, eating well, and my personal favorite, ‘Zoom’ fatigue.

It took me a while to name it but I have uncovered what my feelings of exhaustion, irritability, sadness, and countless physical ailments have manifested from: Grief. No, I haven’t lost a loved one to Covid-19 or my job. I haven’t even contracted the virus and for that, I am grateful. However, it does not take away from the fact that I am grieving. I wonder if you are too?

Disenfranchised Grief

Grief occurs “whenever our attachments are threatened, harmed, or severed” (Wolfelt, 2020). But when we grieve something that is more ambiguous (*cough* a pandemic) or not socially accepted, we sit in a zone of uncertainty. This has been coined as Disenfranchised Grief, by Dr. Kenneth J. Doka. It’s taken me 10 months to finally let go of the guilt I felt around my grief, especially since I had no physical ‘loss’ to contribute it to. There are many around me that have experienced incredible hardship - Why should I be feeling like I have lost so much too? Because I have, and I am guessing you have too. Read More

Naming my Loss

As I have waded through the waves of grief, I had to look below the surface to name where it was coming from. I couldn’t tie it to any particular event. I started to doubt whether any ‘loss’ actually occurred. But of course it had. That moment really hit me: I had lost my hold of my conventional reality and more importantly, I completely lost control on where I believed my life was headed. Although this sounds quite bleak, it actually filled me with deep peace. Being able to name my experience and allowing myself permission to grieve, gave me the freedom to begin healing and claiming control of its outcome.

I could list all the things lost during the pandemic. But I think you have a good grasp on what those are. And to this point, even an extensive list would not address each individual's unique circumstance. I had to acknowledge that we aren’t ‘all in this together’ because my world is different than yours. With any type of collective naming, we risk the erasure of another’s story. We can however understand that each person has experienced loss and grief has been manifested in many forms.

Onboarding Recovery

I can’t say I am in a place to fully let go of my grief. Although the emotions that come with it are

uncomfortable, they are well known. Jumping into a different state of being is scary and will take work. But there are a few things I have done to start gaining some control back in my life that the pandemic has taken from me.

I first began looking at those who came before me. Who has survived and been resilient? What can I learn from their story? What strength do I carry from my ancestors? My Great Grandmother lived with me growing up. I know that she would have held fast to all of her survival skills that she used through the Great Depression and BOTH World Wars, along with every other hardship to follow. Although she is no longer physically with me, I carry her strength and knowledge within me. Whose strength do you carry with you?

I also began speaking openly about my grief. It feels like each time I speak to it, it cracks the wall in my emotional dam. It feels easier each time. When we talk about our experiences it brings us together. It is okay if it is messy or confusing. We are not meant to grieve alone. I can speak from experience that your partner, children, roommates, and pets will thank you for seeking support. We can’t manage all of this in isolation.

And this piece was the hardest and most helpful (as is with most things): I can be grateful for my grief. It means that I lost something that I loved or hoped for. It means I have new plans to make and new relationships to gain. Although 2020 was absolute crap, it taught me stillness, patience,

and showed me the depths of my love. That can’t be taken away. If you are not in the position to feel any type of gratitude for this last year, I get you. There are some experiences that will never get to that place and I honor that. What I do hope is that you feel validated in whatever you are going through and that gives you permission to rest, heal, and recover when you are ready to.

Contributing Author: Chloe Wilkins, (MSW, SUDP) specializes in working with adolescents with Substances Use Disorders and their Families. She continues to be an active member of the equine-assisted services community and focuses her work on supporting relationship dynamics within ruptured family systems.


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