With nearly half a million lives lost worldwide by Covid-19, many people have experienced it in the last few months.
But experts say you don’t have to grieve the death of a loved one to experience the feeling of grief and loss that grief is.
For decades, March-Grier and Robinson have provided free support that has helped thousands of families handle the death of a loved one. Before that, both were honored as CNN heroes.
When the pandemic hit the United States, they realized that their expertise was needed because their communities were gripped by grief and loss.
In addition to moving their regular services online, both have already expanded their business. The March-Grier neighborhood has been hit hard by the virus, so it is creating a new online group, especially for those who have lost someone in the pandemic.
Robinson now offers virtual meetings for healthcare professionals and first responders. Both non-profit organizations use social media to educate the public on how to deal with it.
Their most important message: OK is to feel upset.
“There’s a pandemic of grief right now. And it’s so important that we, as human beings, acknowledge this and allow ourselves to grieve,” Robinson said.
Against this backdrop of this unprecedented loss, the traumatic death of George Floyd also provoked a huge global reaction.
“(This) created an explosion … This is now grief on top of grief,” said March-Grier, who believes that people not only mourn the loss of Floyd’s life, but also the loss of justice that his death represents.
“This one man represents every mother’s son … every husband, every brother in America,” she said. “(This) gave people a reason to act on the anger they suppress. … 100% it is bound by unexplained grief.”
In response, March-Grier and her team offer healing workshops to their community. As emotions grow strongly during this difficult time, she and Robinson want people to know that there are steps they can take to manage their feelings in a healthy way and feel better.
“The most important thing you can do is really talk,” Robinson said. “If you have a best friend or a therapist … you have to process all your feelings and take them out. Otherwise, they just stay inside and can cause physical harm, emotional harm.”
“The way we can constructively deal with grief is to do something positive – to take action and protest, peacefully. By reaching out to help someone in need,” March-Grie said. “Make it positive so you can grow through it.”
CNN’s Kathleen Toner talks to Robinson and March-Grier about their work during that time. Below is an edited version of their conversations.
CNN: You said that it is useful to find meaning in grief and loss.
Mary Robinson: For me, working in grief was my way of making sense of my father’s loss. One good thing that is coming out of the current crisis is that we are now having a global conversation about grief and loss. We all find, “We as human beings grieve all losses.” And we call this experience. Once you have a name for it, then you can do something about it.
Annette March-Grier: Many people who deal with grief do not realize that we have a choice. For example, if you have two people who are going through the tragic murder of a loved one. One may decide to get angry, take revenge, and take this destructive, dark path. The other may decide that this person’s life meant something bigger and “I will do something to make sure that this life is not in vain.” The latter has a healthier perspective and will live a productive, successful life. So, although George Floyd’s life has been taken away, we can make sense of it by changing the laws and by changing the culture of society. That’s how we manage and move forward.
CNN: How did the restrictions during the pandemic affect the way people mourn the dead?
March-Greer: People have no right to grieve and grieve in the usual way. They cannot attend funerals; they cannot have repairs or family reunion after the service. They cannot follow their normal traditions, be surrounded by family and friends. This is heartbreaking.
Robinson: One of the things we offer is for people to get creative. Do an online memorial service and do a ritual together. Maybe light a candle, read a favorite poem, or sing the deceased’s favorite music. It is really important to mark these passages of life and to grieve together, so we need to find ways to do this practically.
CNN: More advice to help people right now?
Robinson: First and foremost are the three most important things we can do to take care of ourselves: to talk and express our feelings. Second: exercises – walking, cycling, shooting with hoops. Physical extraction is so important because it unloads the kinetic energy in your body that accompanies difficult emotions. And the last is the practice of mindfulness: Take deep breaths, do meditation.
The other really good thing to know is that if you feel sad or depressed today, it will pass. Grief is like time – it comes and goes and we have no control over it.
March-Greer: Try to take care of all three parts of yourself – mentally, physically and spiritually. Try to feed yourself every day with some positive inspiration or wisdom. Eat regularly and healthily. Communicate with your pets, especially if you feel alone. Continue your religious practices. Try to keep your daily routine as normal as possible. And reach out to family and friends. Do not allow yourself to be isolated during this time.
Our motto is: “I take care of you, you take care of me, and we take care of each other.” As human beings, it is so important that we connect with each other. Every time we experience a crisis, we are not destined to go through it alone.