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Very happy to present a new @Collective_Psyc essay that I have co-written with @alexevans and @caspertk:

This too shall pass: mourning collective loss in the time of Covid-19

collectivepsychology.org/wp-content/upl…

A introductory thread...
Covid19 is the first true cataclysm most of us have ever seen.

It is a public health emergency, an economic disaster, and a profound social and cultural crisis. Above all, it is a crisis of the mind: ‘the world's biggest psychological experiment’, as @wef calls it.
This global pandemic strikes right at the core of how we live.

And also how we die.
In conditions of huge, widespread loss like this, it’s essential we grieve. Which means grieving collectively, not just on our own.
Death in the west, is still a taboo. We thought a corner was being turned, but just look at how we care for our elders, and hide their deaths in this pandemic.
However covid-19 is starting to force us to look at death squarely in the face. This is a inflection point in our society.

The tide of loss is endless. We all have lost someone, or know someone who has. Lost in the saddest, most painful of ways.
Suddenly, millions of us have lost loved ons, who died alone, but now we grieve alone, deal with their passing alone, isolated.

But also there is also a passing of a way of life as we realise how many things will not go “back to normal” after the outbreak has ended.
But!

For all that we may think our situation is unprecedented, we’ve faced similar cataclysms many times before.

Our ancestors knew all about the challenges we now face, and they have lots to tell us.
Such myths and stories may explain why the disaster has happened - in the process, often telling us truths about ourselves that we might prefer not to face - and tell us how we can move forward.
As well as emphasising why we need to grieve collectively, our essay is also about HOW we can do so, drawing in particular on how our forebears used deep shared stories and rituals to make sense of cataclysms - and how we can draw on them again today.
We also set out 8 key lessons that can help us to navigate this moment of cataclysm and catharsis:
1. Embrace grief. We must move further into grief rather than seeking to avoid it, for if we turn away from it then we increase our pain and fear.
2. This will get worse before it gets better. After disasters, an initial “honeymoon” stage of solidarity and hope is often followed by a “disillusionment” stage of exhaustion, stress, and feelings of abandonment. We may well encounter the same.
3. There is more collective grief to come. With climate breakdown and mass extinction still gathering pace, Covid-19 is the start of a much deeper process of grief that will unfold over years to come.
4. Grief is not an equaliser. Covid-19 is already creating powerful new forms of inequality, and grief and bereavement are no less prone to the effects of social injustice than anything else.
5. We need to grieve together. Grieving for loss is by definition a relational experience, and in most other societies grieving and mourning are far more shared experiences than they are for us in the West.
6. Learn from how our ancestors grieved. Every culture has its own rich and deep history of ritual for loss - and ours is like a treasure house waiting to be rediscovered.
7. Invent new rituals and practices to deal with collective loss. While myths cannot be
designed from scratch, rituals and other communal grieving practices definitely can.
8. Remember that loss is part of the natural cycle. If we are able to understand loss as a form of renewal, we can begin to understand and appreciate life as a single natural process, ever in flux, in motion.
We also offer five practices for grieving well, each of which can be explored individually or in groups – which are about Writing, Making, Walking, Talking, and Listening.
Even as we wait impatiently for things to “return to normal”, we know at some level that they will not. The cataclysm through which we are living - not just the virus, but breakdowns in the cycles of our economies, climate, and ecosystems too - is still just in its early stages.
Although grief is painful, we must recognise the importance of honouring it, both individually and collectively, and of allowing it to unfold in its own time rather than holding it to a timetable. Trying to avoid it only makes things worse.
As our ancestors before us have found, grief also has gifts to offer us, hard as it may be to make them out right now.

(end)
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