All the Grief That Hasn't Been Grieved

Following the Paris terrorist attack in 2015, I had a conversation with a group of colleagues about how public tragedies provide humanity with permission to grieve.

In these events, we collectively grieve our immediate losses, the collateral damage, and all that damn heartbreak—which may or may not be linked to the precipitating tragedy.

During this pandemic, I’ve noticed that my clients are grieving so much more because of Coronavirus. They are grieving a broken relationship from 17 years ago, that time they were shamed in 3rd grade, the trauma unspoken until now, and some pain that words just can’t quite articulate.

One loss is never just one loss—it’s intrinsically tied to all our other losses. The interconnectedness of our grief takes a cumulative toll.

This crisis is activating all the grief that hasn’t been grieved.

This is happening with our clients.

This is happening within our families, communities, and the broader systems that support our shared humanity.

And this is happening with us.

A colleague I respect often says, “We therapists are always doing our own work right alongside our clients.” We are therapists, but first we are people—people who are not immune to pain.

As we hold space for our clients, I hope we can hold space for ourselves to enter the graceful and gritty process of grief.

Julia O'Donnell, LICSW, is a sex therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families in downtown Boston.

(Image by K. Mitch Hodge via Unsplash.)

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