Cultural + Personal Grief | Thoughts from Zoë and Sebastian.

Updated: Feb 15

Thoughts from Zoë: Cultural Grief


Over the past year and a half, humanity has been struck with an overwhelming amount of loss – of loved ones, of time and connection with those you love, of a job, of expectations, of a milestone event. This loss is often met by feelings of grief – an acute pain that accompanies loss that can feel all-encompassing and overwhelming. When I think about loss and grieving, it’s easy to jump to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s all around us. It’s been our reality for almost 2 years. It’s affected our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies, and our behaviours.


I also recognize that our world, our country, our community, and our homes have been inundated with grief and loss in ways even larger than the pandemic. Canada discovered more than 1,100 unmarked graves of Indigenous children on lands of old Residential Schools across the country. Wildfires have destroyed communities, safety, and lives. An unprecedented heatwave struck the country, causing mental and physical overwhelm on the healthcare system and people’s livelihood. And this is all in the past couple of months.

These current events are stirring up feelings of grief and loss for so many.

Canada discovered more than 1,100 unmarked graves of Indigenous children on lands of old Residential Schools across the country.

I also acknowledge that this has been the reality of groups and individuals throughout history. The current feelings of loss and grief may be heightened responses to what is an ongoing reality for certain individuals already. While you may be experiencing feelings of sadness and grief towards these events in a particular way, other people are used to this feeling. We honor the different responses – this newness is scary in itself, and the ongoing feelings of grief and loss can have impacts on current and future generations.


I recognize that loss and tragedy have become common to see and read in the news. It’s started to become expected. There may be different responses people take towards this level and amount of loss. You may become numb or unphased by new events, you may experience acute anxiety, you may have feelings of despair and hopelessness, you may be experiencing immense empathy and sadness to those people affected. All of these responses make sense.


It is critical to acknowledge the loss and grief we each experience and hold space for what that means for all parts of our internal and external selves. Whatever you are feeling in response to these events – both current and historical, are valid and seen and heard. We are with you.

 

Thoughts from Sebastian: The Process of Grieving w/ Existential Analysis


While there are many popular ideas/theories out there about what grief is (and how you should manage it), I wanted to share today a bit about how the theory of Existential Analysis understands grief; and provide some insight on how grief may be dealt with in therapy with me.


Existential Analysis is a phenomenological and person-oriented psychotherapy, with the aim of guiding a person to a free experience of their mental and emotional life, to make authentic decisions, and to discover a truly responsible way of dealing with life and the world. As a therapist who is training in Existential Analysis, I do this by helping bring my clients into dialogue with their inner and outer world. Put another way, I aim to help my clients be open to the questions that life asks of them (outer world), help them take a position (inner position), and respond in a way that reflects who they are.


Grieving is understood as the personal dealing with the loss of a felt life-value and requires a new relating to life. It happens over the loss of something worth living for. This might be over the loss of a loved one who has died, the loss of a meaningful relationship, the loss of a pet, or even the loss of a job. In grieving, life asks us a personal question: Can you and would you like to continue life under these circumstances of loss? Do you have the strength to continue? Will your life still have value?

Grief happens over the loss of something worth living for.

In order to answer these questions, the grieving person in therapy is invited into three phases of grief: 1) accepting and letting be, 2) turning towards the feeling of loss, and 3) allowing for the feeling to impact the person.


1) Attitude of Letting Be

This means giving up the resistance, letting go. By admitting what has happened, and recognizing what value is threatened through the loss, I can let it "get to me" and respond with a feeling. This attitude is embodied through tears/crying.


2) Turning Towards | Inner talking

The loss leaves a void, a part of me has been torn away like an amputated limb. Through acceptance and tears, I can turn towards myself and tend to my wound. This is done through speaking to myself with:

  • Self-Compassion, creating closeness and empathy with oneself.

  • Tenderness, comfort, and sensitivity.

  • Caring for myself. Asking the question, "What do I need?"

3) Impact | Reorientation

Once I've turned towards the feeling of loss, I allow it to impress itself upon me--producing an internalized change in me and in my relationship to the loss. At this point, I am faced with the questions, "Is this a life still worth living? Is it even possible with this loss?" These questions lead to: an approval of life under these new conditions and a new internalized relation to the lost value.


Are you tired of feeling stuck with grief? Consider booking a free consultation with us! Our counsellors at Wingfield Counselling & Psychotherapy Services have the space and tools to help guide you as you explore! Contact us today if you would like to talk with one of our trained counsellors.


Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to continue learning with you :)

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