Ways to Express our Collective Grief in 2020

How to Write about The Loss of Your Lifestyle 

In years to come, as in tree rings, our memories will reflect that in 2020 there was a massive disturbance in our lives; rings of thin lines showing malnourishment, infestation, and trauma, and rings of extra reaction or compression wood that we had to build to support ourselves as we tried to straighten up to our normal position.

We’re all going through the process of grief, here, now, during the most impactful epidemic of our lifetimes. We are mourning the loss of our ‘way of life’, both present and future.  The layers of this grief are immeasurable and timeless.

How do we avoid side-stepping this grief? How do we go directly through it so we can eventually heal? I don’t have the answers, except to say that we first need to admit we are grieving. And then we need to express it.

The Emotional Response to Grief
Grief is a complex physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological response to loss. The emotions attached to it can explode with denial, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Don’t hold back when you write about your grief. Remember that no-one sees, hears, feels, and perceives life the way you do. Therefore, there is only one way to grieve; YOUR way.


Denial is Mother Nature’s way of protecting us against the brutal reality of our loss so we can slowly and gently process our feelings before they overwhelm and debilitate us.

Write about the things you may be denying at this time, e.g. the severity of the virus, the loss of normalcy etc. There’s no right or wrong here. No truth or lies. Only YOUR thoughts and feelings.  What you feel is your truth.

Express your anger using powerful words like infuriated, seething, livid, devastated, e.g. ‘I get infuriated when I can’t breathe behind a mask’, ‘I’m livid that I haven’t seen my mother for four months’, ‘I’m devastated that I can’t play soccer this year.’ Write, write, write. Let it all pour out. No mask required in this exercise.

Show; don’t tell where possible: ‘My heart starts racing and my jaw clenches as I drive past the soccer field where we should be playing.’ 

If you cannot offer comfort to yourself at this time, then so be it. The simple act of writing down your thoughts is a huge leap of courage and determination.   

What scares you about these times? Your mortality? Or your Loved One’s? Confinement with others, job or status loss, financial devastation, health/fitness decline, abandoned goals/dreams, your compromised freedom?

Make 2 columns. In the first column list all your fears. e.g. ‘I’m scared my father will get Covid and die’.

After finishing the list in the first column, take a break. Then, at some point - perhaps after you’ve been through this whole article – go back and question each fear realistically and offer yourself comfort or reassurance in the second column. ‘You don’t know this for sure so try to enjoy each day you have with your father now.’

Hopes and Dreams
This pandemic has slashed the hopes and dreams of many. From personal events like graduations and weddings, to large projects like opening a business that took years to develop. Express your emotions of lost hopes and dreams the same way you did in the ‘fear’ section.

Make 2 columns. In the first list the hopes and dreams you had pre Covid 19. e.g. ‘My book  was registered to appear in 4 International book fairs in 2020’. Then wait, and as with ‘fear’, go back and offer comfort in the second column. ‘I now have time to market my book more before it goes to the fairs in 2021’.

Ultimately these types of lists can offer you reality checks, acceptance, and in some cases, hope and gratitude. 

For those feeling depressed right now, list words that reflect how you feel. Try going through the alphabet. Start anywhere. See which words surface e.g. lonely, mournful, numb. Think of similes relating to these words to use in your writing: lonely as a cloud, mournful as a grave, numb as stone.
Keep writing, digging deep into the swamp to uncover your sad emotions. Bring them into the daylight. Sort through them. Challenge them. Meditate on them. And with love, offer understanding.

This pandemic is a test on patience. We wait and we wait…  We can express this poetically, e.g.

Waiting for re-openings
waiting for kisses and warm embraces
waiting to be normal
waiting for my prayers to be answered
waiting to roam freely,  
while the numbers crawl to zero.

The Arts
If you’ve turned to any form of art, e.g. music, during these times, explain how art helps you escape reality.

Where does your faith lie? In family? In your country’s leadership? In your God? Express your faith. How does it benefit you during this time?

What is your light at the end of the tunnel?
As you travel through the dark tunnel of this pandemic, what represents the light at the end of it? e.g. loyal friends, sacred holy books, a life-saving therapist, mood-altering drugs, calming alcohol, wildlife and nature, a loving spouse, etc. Describe the light/s at the end of your tunnel.

Write a Letter
Write a letter to the BC (before Covid) YOU, telling yourself how you feel and how you plan to get back to the person you once were. Begin by reminiscing and praising him/her for what or who they were BC. ‘You were doing great there, with your job and fixing the house, playing squash regularly, and balancing it off with lots of mini-getaways and relaxation in the back yard. You had great retirement plans, and your investments were growing’.

Then describe the outbreak of Covid 19 and how your world changed.

Tell your BC self about the things you are grateful for. ’Apart from having to wear masks and Personal Protective Equipment and take a 20% pay cut at work, I’m lucky to still be employed.’

Write a pledge to your BC self, indicating how you will find your way back to who you once were.

End your letter with a positive quote.  Again, if you cannot be positive right now, just know that your muse is serving you well. You are inspired. And you are inspiring. At the very least.  

In conclusion
We are all currently living between the lines of life as the world waits for restoration. What will the next ring in your tree look like after the massive disturbance in 2020? Will it be thin? Or will it be a thick, strong band of reaction wood as we straighten … straighten … straighten … ?

The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow;
its disappearance slow, like a thread.  ~ Chinese Proverb