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Thoughts On Our Current Reality: Being With The Grief

Collectively we are feeling different types of grief: grief for what WAS and grief for what MIGHT BE. In this article I’ve shared some thoughts about how we can better sit with our emotions to regulate how we show up in the world.

This article is not about energy or sustainability, however, I wanted to share it on CleanTechnica because I think it’s relevant to our human condition. Assuming all our readers are humans (and not bots, though there might be a few of those), it affects you and our human collective.

The first week in #shelterinplace was really tough for me: I felt nervous about my own health, that of my community, and the global population. I was feeling sad, scattered, and disconnected. Amid the cacophony of noise from NPR and Facebook, one article stuck out to me and I returned to it again and again in conversations with myself and others: The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.

I loved this article and I think it’s deeply important. Please read it today.

There is power in the naming of our emotions. When an emotion is named it can be managed. This makes our lives easier. It gives us clarity and empathy about the human condition: if I am feeling grief, others might be feeling grief as well. Might this make us more kind in our communication and (properly distanced) interactions?

David Kessler

David Kessler

The article, published in the Harvard Business Review, features David Kessler – “the world’s foremost expert on grief.” Kessler explains that many of us are currently experiencing two types of grief.

We are grieving for what was: canceled holidays, changed plans, disruption to normal routines, changes to our daily schedules, sudden pressure of having everyone home together, and for many of us, job and financial insecurities.

There is also anticipatory grief. Kessler explains the many nuances of anticipatory grief so well, and I want to capture his quote fully:

“Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

So what can you do if you are feeling grief – or any other emotion – now?

In a culture that tells us to hide our emotions, to ‘keep calm and carry on,’ to ‘suck it up,’ I’d like to suggest a radical approach to FEEL all your feelings.

Emotions are energy – they need time and space to move through the body, otherwise they get stuffed down, manifested in uncomfortable physical pain or unintentional emotional pain expressed towards ourself and others. During this time of deep uncertainly, I invite you to consider the following possible actions to help regulate how you show up in the world:

  • Be with the Feels: Whatever you are feeling now, during this time of crisis and uncertainty, is real. Your feelings are valid and important, and I encourage you to give yourself time to FEEL them all. Today you might be joyful, and tomorrow you might be angry and overwhelmed. Both are totally ok, and totally normal now… especially since we don’t have a ‘normal’ anymore.
  • Move the Emotions: Anger, sadness, frustration, and grief can be expressed in various ways. Yelling, stomping, crying, dancing, or simply being with the emotions can help move them through your body. Sometimes it seems silly, sometimes it seems unnecessary, however, if you believe that sadness or anger can move through you, then you can be proactive and take action to make it move. Use a punching bag, stomp around the yard, yell into a pillow – whatever it takes to MOVE the feeling out.
  • Move your Body: Exercise of any sort is cathartic and boosts feelings of positivity. Walking, biking, running, yoga, chasing your kids around the living room, fake wrestling with your sweetheart, literally anything works here. Just move. If possible, connect with Nature; the trees and soil can be very grounding and comforting.

Finally, in this time of deep uncertainly, give yourself credit for doing the best that you can each day. There has been a push across media outlets and from self-helpy ‘experts’ that NOW is the time to start a daily yoga practice, build a victory garden, learn to bake bread, take Spanish classes, finally write your novel, finally get your kids to eat vegetables, and all.the.things.

Yes, if you feel inspired, GREAT, write the novel and force the kids to eat broccoli. But, if like so many of the humans on our planet, you are feeling sad, uninspired, or terrified, it’s ok to just BE. You have permission to be slow, unproductive, and give yourself time to process these huge global shifts – you don’t have to be a productivity expert or a hero right now.

And some more thoughts on grief: perhaps for some of you this feeling is not new. Many of us have been facing deep ecological grief that is quite similar to our current situation. I continue to feel sad for the planet that was, and anticipatory grief of what might happen. Learning how to be with the grief and move beyond it is key to inspired action.

Moving into hope from despair is a good reach, but to get there wholeheartedly, you often need to move through stages of feelings. Feelings are not necessarily linear. Be with your emotions as they are daily, and look towards the positive changes as move towards better-feeling states. One of my favorite spiritual teachers shares an Emotional Guidance scale that shows how you can move into better-feeling states by choosing the next best feeling. Sometimes this will bring you to feeling just a bit better than where you are presently, and get you to a point of hope and joy eventually.

Today, I am feeling hopeful and inspired. The team at CleanTechnica is (I do believe) a mostly hopeful bunch: in the past few days, we’ve covered new battery projects on my home island of Oahu, big companies like MG and Tesla stepping up to use their businesses for good, and many other ways to see the silver lining.

B-Lab looks at how businesses could emerge better than before the crisis. In our local community, people are rallying around helping our most vulnerable (the young, the elderly, the houseless) in truly inspiring ways, and this is happening around the world. Companies are (hopefully, finally) thinking more long-term about how to treat the most vulnerable workers, and creating more paid sick time for those that need it most.

When you’re ready, I hope that you, too, can find hope among the crisis and be a part of building a new normal that’s good for the humans and the planet.

image from NASA

Image of North America at night, from NASA

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I'm a marketing and sales professional focused on mission-driven businesses. I'm a journalist, green investor, wellness educator, surfer, and yogi. Find delicious food and wellness stuff on my Instagram @VibrantWellness.


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