How to Grieve Together as a Community
The year 2020 will go down in history as an unprecedented time when a pandemic, an economic depression and massive protests for racial equality and justice have swept across the entire planet simultaneously. We are living through these challenging days and experiencing trauma and grief along with our community, our nation and all of the world’s citizens at the same time.
While we often view grief as a solitary process — something we have to deal with by ourselves — the uniqueness of our current situation calls us to find new ways to come together with our neighbors and share our sorrow with one another. These historic global events are affecting all of us both individually and collectively.
So the time is right to learn how to grieve together with our fellow humans and find support and hope through our coming together, even in a time of quarantine. Here are some tips for joining the communal grief project of our world:
Acknowledge your personal grief
The first step is to get in touch with your own grief, whether it is for the death of a loved one or for other losses you have experienced, such as loss of a job, relationship, social activity or daily routine. Identify all of the losses that are contributing to your feelings of grief and name them, perhaps by writing in a journal, drawing a picture, making a collage or a poster you can hang on a bulletin board.
Create a space for grief
Find a tiny corner with a table or a shelf or windowsill in one room of your house to serve as your grief altar. Place there a candle, flower, picture, and some other symbolic memento like a stone, shell or crystal. Visit this space every day and spend a few moments of silence there as a way of honoring this time of grief. Place your grief journal or picture on or near your altar.
Recognize the suffering of others
Next it is important to become aware of how current events are affecting other people. Read stories of people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, or of medical providers who are giving care on the front lines, or death care workers who are responding to the need for remote funerals and burial ceremonies. Also read about the economic hardships that people around the world are facing and the police brutality that is robbing our fellow citizens of life, freedom and dignity.
Take off your blinders to see clearly the reality of the suffering of other people in this world. Make a list of these collective losses to add to your own grief journal or collage or poster.
Expand your circle of compassion
On a blank sheet of paper list your own personal losses in the center of the page and draw a circle around them. Then draw a larger circle almost to the edge of the page. Inside the larger circle write down the suffering and grief you have been learning about through your reading. As you think about the suffering of other people that is taking place simultaneously with your own grief, focus on expanding your own boundaries of concern and care. Envision enlarging the small circle of your compassion until it grows large enough to hold all of the other suffering you have listed on the page. Now you are merging your own pain with the collective pain of the planet.
Create rituals for our collective losses
Once you have created a visual image of a circle large enough to hold your grief and that of the larger community you can use it as a basis for healing rituals that acknowledge and carry this pain. For example you might begin by lighting a candle then focusing on your own losses and grief. Feel your heart opening to the sorrow of your current situation, but also to love and peace. Then gradually turn your attention to the pain of the larger circle and send love and peace to all who are suffering, wherever they may be.
When we are able to recognize that others are experiencing loss and pain even while we are in the midst of our own grief, we can find comfort in knowing that we are not alone. In fact, sharing the challenges facing the planet with the rest of humanity can make it easier to bear the burden of loss and to find a path through it. If there is any consolation in the difficult year of 2020 it is that we have an opportunity to come together as one world and to help each other grow stronger and more compassionate.