Finding Meaning

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

As we come to the end of our third week in session, I am grateful that we have been able to start off well. This year will be different. And these differences will impact us all but in many different ways. David Kessler, an authority on grief, has an insightful article in the most recent Harvard Business Review about how we are all grieving in some way because of the impact of the pandemic.

Many of us are probably in a group he calls the “worried well.” He describes this group as healthy: 

“They haven’t experienced sickness around them, but they are concerned. They may still be grieving losses of work, of normalcy, of opportunities and events. Work projects they were passionate about. Weddings. Holiday gatherings. Vacations and trips. Students are losing activities that fulfill them; seniors are grieving the loss of the capstones to their academic careers: graduations, proms, and other ceremonies.”

These are legitimate losses that create grief and we naturally extend this forward to the future which can create anxiety about future losses and impact on loved ones. Kessler goes on to explain that we have the tendency to react to these pressures in a minimizing (denying the severity of a situation or being overly optimistic) or maximizing way (the sky is falling and nothing will ever be the same). I believe Kessler is correct in recognising that the truth lies somewhere between the two points of view. He also discusses groups (affected and bereaved) who have direct experience of loss because of the pandemic. From this we know that there will be many different mindsets and perspectives, so more than ever we need to be empathetic and make the effort to connect to and support each other.

Kessler places emphasis on processing our grief through finding meaning. He explains, “Meaning comes in many forms. An effort to remember the joy that something or someone gave before the loss can bring meaning. Rituals of remembrance can bring meaning. Gratitude is a form of meaning … turning [a] loss into something positive for others can bring meaning. Meaning comes in moments and actions that heal, even if just a little.” 

As we grapple with these times we need to be kind to ourselves and others. I am reminded of an adage I heard often in my youth, “Be careful how you use words and time. You can’t get either of them back.” I hope we can make the most of our time, no matter what the circumstances and believe in the essential kindness of our community.


  • head's note
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