Stella Goddard

BA (Hons) Counselling, Registered MBACP (Accred)
Registered AMemACC Registered MNCPS (Acc.)

Collective and Personal Grief

In the UK we are now in Week 5 of Lock-down (or ‘I am staying at home to keep myself and other people safe’ as someone has said) It’s an interesting re-frame of a situation which none of us could have imagined in January 2020 when we were full of expectation for a wonderful New Year.

I thought it would be helpful to reflect on some of the things that I have noticed, as together and separately we grieve what we have lost.

In the early stages of being aware of Covid-19 being in China we may have had a sense of this happening to ‘someone else, somewhere else.’ We may have felt compassion or perhaps we felt nothing as we were so absorbed in our own routines.

It seemed as though, all of a sudden, this was too close for comfort – we may have tried to pretend that we were not going to be affected and would carry on with our lives as normal. As we clung on to our routines by our fingernails, gradually we began to realise that we were not going to be able to continue the same way for very much longer.

For myself as a Counsellor, I felt it was important to prepare my clients as best as I could, so when I began to see that I may need to temporarily stop face-to-face counselling I managed to see nearly all of them face-to-face so that we could collaboratively discuss the best way forward. Inevitably online counselling doesn’t suit everyone and some preferred to wait until I am able to return to my Consulting Rooms in Weybridge and Godalming.

I am indebted to two of my colleagues who told me about Zoom and spent time with me teaching me how to use this as they were already familiar with it. I am also indebted to my clients for their patience as we gradually adjusted to this new way of working for the time being. We were agreed that it was important to continue the work. More than ever I am conscious of the pressure, anger, sadness, anxiety and stress that people are experiencing.

Whatever socio-economic group we are in, we are all affected and we all feel pain. If we had a comfortable life before Covid-19, it may well be less comfortable now. If we already had a very vulnerable life things will be even more difficult.

Thankfully the early panic of seeing empty shelves in the shops has stopped. If we are able to shop in a reasonable fashion we are fortunate indeed. It is not like that for everyone and other people in the world live in a permanent state of poverty and vulnerability. So in the UK even though things are very difficult we still have much to be thankful for.

For the first few weeks some people will have coped reasonably well and enjoyed being home with family. For those who live on their own but have fulfilling lives they may not have noticed a difference to start with.

There are bound to be stressful moments as parents adjust to home-working and home schooling. This is hard for everyone.

For those who are in abusive relationships people are in very real danger and need to reach out for help.

The reality of the uncertainty of how long is this going on is becoming more difficult. I was very moved to hear on the Press Briefing on BBC a Grandmother asking when she can hug her grandchildren again. Such a powerful and reasonable question – we need to be able to touch our loved ones. Not being able to do so is painful.

So where are we in our grief – I imagine we will all be at different stages: shock, disbelief, denial, bargaining, feeling low, anger, sadness, anxiety…..perhaps some level of acceptance with the plea of ‘but when can I see my children, parents, friends….’ ‘How much longer?’ ‘A week?’ More?????

None of us like uncertainty yet we have the gift of life. It is so important to live as well as we can in the moment and value what we do have.

I am more aware than ever of the importance of our mental health and am enormously grateful to still be able to support people using Zoom.

I am also offering counselling to NHS and KeyWorkers who are under an indescribable amount of ongoing stress.

We all need one another – we always have -perhaps now we are realizing this more than ever.

If you need support please ask. My colleagues and I are ready and waiting to help.