Dealing with Grief

On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. I can distinctly remember the moment that the reality and gravity of the global situation sunk in for me – I was sitting in my dorm, when a piece of paper was slid under my door announcing that residences were closing within the week and we were strongly encouraged to make arrangements to go home. I was shocked. Numb. The past year and a half have turned the world upside down and there has been immeasurable loss. The death toll as a result of the pandemic currently stands at 4, 725, 981 lives lost, a figure that almost feels unreal in its magnitude. In addition to this immense loss of life, we as a global community have experienced loss in so many other forms - loss of social relationships as a result of lockdowns, loss of experience as, for example, children haven’t been able to go to school, loss of jobs as so many industries have suffered to name just a few. The pandemic has wrought so much suffering ,and coming hand in hand with this, is the experience of grief.

Grief is a natural response to the pain the pandemic has caused and it is important to recognize and understand the grieving process. While it in no way amounts to the magnitude of loss that others have experienced, I myself, was unable to recognize that in the months following the move to online school and having to leave Toronto to return home that I was in-fact grieving the loss of my academic experience and loss of social relationships. Feelings of grief can be overwhelming and difficult to process and for me, it was helpful to understand the steps we go through as we grieve. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, created “the grief model” which has now evolved to what we know as “The Seven Stages of Grief.”

Based on this scholarship, grieving begins with shock and disbelief. It then moves towards denial of the fact followed by guilt, believing that something could have been done to avert the circumstance. After guilt comes feelings of anger and then emotions of loneliness which is often the stage at which one is considered to have fully accepted the loss. The light at the end of the tunnel begins following these stages as there is the move towards acceptance, the seventh and final stage of grief. This model is not absolute and certainly, we may not experience all of these stages in the order they’re listed or even at all! I, personally, found it very helpful in understanding my emotions and allowing me to make a conscious effort to move through the stages of the “Grief Model” as I dealt with my own loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dealing with grief is hard. The pandemic has taken so much from all of us and many are probably still managing and processing feelings such as these. Yet, as we each navigate this new world and journey with the pain we have all experienced, it is wonderful to finally see Toronto and the university coming back to life. It is inspiring and brings with it hope for new connections and new opportunities. This re-opening has seemed to breathe new life into our community but transitions do come with their own challenges. If you find yourself struggling, the university has a number of mental health care services available for students which provide a range of support be it academic, mental or emotional to help you through.

On March 11th 2020, our lives changed and have not been the same since. We have all journeyed through these unprecedented times together and now, when we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, we can celebrate our strength and resilience in making it this far. I’m sending good thoughts and wishes to everyone.

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