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David Kessler: That discomfort you’re feeling is grief

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Sadness, loneliness, discomfort; All feelings that people may be experiencing in this harrowing time. Yet, we remember that all these feelings pass as the sun rises, and a new day is born.

One feeling that creeps into our sense of comfort, however, is grief. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) held an interview with grief expert David Kessler.

Kessler co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of GriefHis volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events as well as having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. He is the founder of www.grief.com, which has over 5 million visits yearly from 167 countries.

Kessler shared his thoughts with HBR on why it’s important to acknowledge the grief people may be feeling, how to manage it, and how he believes people will find meaning in it.

“We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realise things will be different.

“Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving.”

While it is not uncommon for people to experience grief, often it is a symptom of a personal action, rather not created by an external force. Kessler iterates that this specific emotion, felt by people across the globe in the crisis, is anticipatory grief.

“Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain,” Kessler says.

“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.”

David Kessler revealed a few points on how best to deal with growing grief during this time:

  • Find balance in the things you’re thinking.
  • Calm yourself, you want to come into the present. 
  • Think about how to let go of what you can’t control. 
  • Stock up on compassion

“There is something powerful about naming this as grief,” Kessler says.

“It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, ‘I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,’ or ‘I cried last night.’ When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”

You can read the full interview on the Harvard Business Review HERE

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