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Ambiguous Loss: Grief and Gratitude as Tools to Cope

It has been 235 days since Friday March 13th when in my state of Washington, schools sent children home, businesses closed, and Governor Jay Inslee gave the Stay at Home Order to try and "flatten the curve"of the spread of COVID-19. In this time there have been losses, big and small; the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe, the loss of jobs, the permanent closing of businesses, the cancelling of weddings, church services, graduation ceremonies.... literally too many losses to name. It is loss on top of loss, without an end in sight.

Even without the devastating blows of losing someone we love dearly or having to worry about whether we have enough money to put food on the table because we no longer have a job, this season feels like death by a thousand paper cuts. My podcast partner Danielle thinks that when you add up all the little losses they end up being so numerous that if we allow ourselves to name and grieve them, it would feel like we are drowning.

Last week, we recorded an episode of the Arise Podcast with Dr Kimberly Riley and Dr. Jessica Guerrero, to talk about how to cope with these ambiguous losses. Dr. Kimberly says we are living in sober times filled with grief, loss and uncertainty and we’re having trouble identifying what it is we're grieving. What we are feeling is called “ambiguous loss” and it is loss that “defies resolution and creates confusion.” The reality is that we still don’t know all that we’ve lost because we are still actively in it and continually adding more to the losses. Because grief shows up in many different ways, how do we cope with it? Here are some thoughts from our conversation:

First, we need to acknowledge and name what we're feeling. There is no need to compare our grief to someone else's grief; there are no prizes for being the most grieved. Instead, just allow yourself to come to a place where you can say, "This is what I am feeling today" and give yourself permission to sit in that space.

Then, we need to talk about it. Who are people in your life that are safe for you to share what you're thinking and feeling? There is such power in being seen and heard; we are all longing to be witnessed and to witness others, to join together in our time of grief so we can remember that we are not alone.

Finally, allow grief to move you into gratitude. You are still here. You are still alive for a reason and a purpose. There is still beauty in the midst of brokenness, joy in the midst of sorrow, we need only to look for it. Can you still find beauty?

Listen to the full conversation here.


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