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COVID-19: A grief expert explains how we can process the ‘unfathomable’ amount of loss we all suffer

Dear potato folks: It is the second time is as many days that I wish to point you to a rather non-potato related article here – and it concerns the current pandemic, which most of us are acutely aware of, no doubt, Apologies tor that then – I hope this might be meaningful to at least some of you? Here goes then…

Camille Wortman is an emeritus professor of psychology at Stony Brook University and an award-winning expert on grief and bereavement. Her work includes the authoring of five books, hundreds of articles, and, in response to the events of 9/11, the creation of a training program for therapists on how to treat traumatic bereavement.

Nineteen years after 9/11, the United States is once again experiencing a time of grief. More than 100,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, a number eloquently described by The New York Times as “an incalculable loss.”

It’s a loss so great that some have called for a national day of mourning — a time to pause and remember. Remember both who are gone, and remember so we can take the steps to avoid this level of devastation in the future.

Necessary to this is an understanding of grief, and how to grieve in a way that leads to healing. Presently, grief is being experienced on both an individual and a collective level. In the conversation below, Wortman offers guidance.

According to Wortman, any type of loss of something that we value is of importance, One of the hardest thing about the time we’re in right now is that people are experiencing so many layers of grief for so many losses that they’re trying to deal with at once, Camille says.

For example, suppose we have a 60-year-old couple and the husband dies. That’s never easy, but in addition to experiencing the loss of her husband, the wife is also in such a different situation than she would be if there wasn’t Covid-19.

She very likely was not able to see her husband for days; not able to be there when he died. She is in such a vulnerable state, and then she’s dealing with the additional stressors associated with the pandemic — financial insecurity, the inability to mourn in person with others. It’s almost too much for anyone.

If you look at the literature on grief, according to Wortman – the main thing that’s helpful is physical presence. Psychologists know that physical connection — a touch, a hug — has a healing power. Many people are not able to have that now, of course, with the coronavirus and social distancing rules in place around the world.

People also do better if they have some certainty regarding what they are dealing with. So we are also experiencing the loss of certainty with the ambiguity of this situation.

Says Wortman: “Personally, I have a very, very close colleague and friend who has had all of the Covid-19 symptoms and was taken to the hospital where she still remains. It’s horrifying to think what will happen to her family if something happens. So, here I am looking at this one family, and you think, my God, there are 100,000 families just like this.”

Read the full article on Inverse here if you wish

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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