What Grief Taught Me About the Art of Community

As the world faces grief at record levels, people are supporting each other in caring and inventive ways. The power of community and resilient support has never been more important. Here are several ways we can learn from and care for each other.

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The learning journey as an adult can take many forms; It could be a formal course you take online, a class you attend, books you read, or even experiences you go through from which you learn something new.  Recently, grief became a teacher, and I learned a great deal about myself, but more importantly about the powerful support of community. 

Grief has come a lot closer to many of our global community over this past year with the tragic increase of deaths related to both COVID-19 directly and the people who have succumbed due to not getting adequate care. I had my own experience with my father who suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack recently. In that instance grief left the news feeds we’ve all been seeing over the past year and became a very close and real experience.

There are the classic stages of grief that one reads about, none of which really made sense to me in the days following my father’s passing. Turns out, many of us are not “classic” grievers, following exact stages of the Kubler-Ross “Stages of Grief” model. On reflection, my personal grief was so tightly woven with gratitude and wonder at my community that it impacted how I felt the stages of grief. There are no right or wrong feelings regarding a loss. 

Going hand-in-glove with the grief was a deep and abiding gratitude to the community that rose up to lend support. Distant family reached out and in tangible ways helped me make sense of both my father’s life from their perspective and helped me understand his bigger legacy. Friends delivered flowers and food, taking care to be mindful of our family preferences. My children showed me how to love and grieve with a detached here-and-now focus as they live for the moment. My colleagues showed me true friendship and understanding, taking over my responsibilities with no questions asked, and when I returned to work continued to show an unexpected level of care and thoughtfulness. Even clients who heard of my loss also came out to share their condolences and understanding. 

Andrea A. Moore is a certified bereavement facilitator, grief advocate, intuitive grief coach, speaker, and author at From Grief to Grind. She knows a thing or two about grief and how we can support those experiencing it. In a recent column, she shared the concept of living beyond. She describes it as “a support or a listening ear” and offers these wonderful examples to engage with a person who is grieving. 

  1. Hey (insert name) I am heading out to grab something to eat and I would love for you to come with me. I have something to run past you.
  2. Hey (insert name) I know we are social distancing and all. I haven’t seen you in a while so are you free Friday for us to talk on Zoom?
  3. Did you see what I saw on the news? Tiffany Haddish cut her hair off and she looks fabulous. (conversation starter)

In each scenario, Moore notes that not once did she mention or focus on their loss. Instead, she notes the importance of conveying support and love. If the conversation moves on to the person’s loss, that is fine. If it doesn’t, that is also fine. 

Over the past months, I’ve come to appreciate this approach and the outpouring of support from my community. In fact, from all this, I re-learned the art of community.  I learned that as individuals, we are all part of a much larger ‘we’ and that while people show up for each other spontaneously in times of need, one needn’t wait until there’s a need to reach out.  

Additional resources for helping understand and manage grief can be found at Help Guide.

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