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"Good Grief" by Cheryl Buyze, LMSW

It’s all so surreal.” This was the expression often heard as the reality of the pandemic loomed into our homes via media and further honed into our hearts, homes, and workplaces in Michigan. I felt that way also, and yet, I noticed some aspects of this experience seemed rather strangely familiar to me. It occurred to me; I have been here before, only in a different way. Grief. I recalled the shock, the feeling of being disoriented, and the loss of identity when I was abruptly faced with the tragic death of my husband by suicide in the Fall of 2013. I am familiar with all the accompanying emotions that fluctuate and often conflict with each other; the shock, denial, sadness, anger, bargaining, and fatigue along with episodes of gratefulness, acceptance, heightened senses, coping mechanisms, and new direction. Our losses during this pandemic certainly vary in intensity and impact, nonetheless they are very real. Our world and each of us in it are experiencing a collective grief. Our lives have suddenly and abruptly changed. My yearning for ‘the way we were’ and the hope that my husband would suddenly just walk in the door is not that different than our collective ache to be able to just walk out our doors and return to the way we were. We hold precious memories in our life experiences that both soothe and sting. It all seems surreal even as we know it is not and we find our way through many painful challenges. Perhaps in identifying our underlying discomfort we can make sense of the chaos and better manage both ourselves as well as our expectations of others. This time gives us opportunity to search inwardly for personal meaning, purpose and growth and to re-establish one’s core beliefs. It is a time for self-care, reuniting with our passions and discovering what is crucial for one’s own mind, body, and spirit.

It is also a time to search outwardly for ways to show compassion and kindness to each other and to a world that is suffering. Grieving people behave strangely sometimes. Let that sink in.

On our paths we find a new normal, not necessarily what we desire, but where our journeys are leading us. Our lives are changing and transitioning daily, even without a pandemic, and we often mourn what is no longer. Essentially, we are each tasked with finding new ways to function in every area of our lives and the answer to “Now what?” Through accepting our losses and recognizing our grief responses we find meaning and purpose. As we share adverse experiences, we can create a tolerance and a better understanding of ourselves and others. There is a unity in acknowledging our collective grief that propels action and heartfelt service. With a heightened sense of what is eternally significant along with renewed and purposeful living we begin to establish strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

-Cheryl Buyze is a Licensing Supervisor at Child and Family Services of NW Michigan and has been a part of CFS for over 20 years.

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