An Adlerian Essay: Grief, Loss, and COVID19
Wes Wingett PhD
Death tolls are rising. People are not working. I can’t go where I want to go. Do I have IT? I worry about my grandkids – are they safe? When are we going to see our grandparents? I won’t get to see my friends in FOREVER! Tears show up – what is wrong with me? These thoughts, spoken and spoken, may be part of your thinking during this pandemic. These thoughts, associated emotions, and resultant behaviors may be part of the grief and loss associated with the COVID19 pandemic.
Individuals experience loss and grief throughout their life spans. Colgrove, Bloomfield, and McWilliams (1977) indicate that there are several kinds of losses. Losses described by the authors are obvious losses, death of a loved one or a divorce; not so obvious losses, loss of job or money, illness, or moving; losses related to age, childhood dreams, adolescent romances, leaving home, retirement; limbo, medical test results, lovers after a quarrel; inevitable losses, imminent death or separation; and other more temporary losses, family on vacation or family members or friends away for a time.
Alfred Adler believed that it is not what happens to us in life, it is what we decide about what happens. His theory suggests that we are responsible decision makers, meaning makers, and that we develop courage to face the challenges of living including responding to crisis. This world-wide pandemic is a time for reflection, to recall the people that believed in us throughout our lives, and to practice self-care and social responsibility.
Erik Blumenthal (1998) stated the following ideas about the meaning of courage: “To establish how courageous we are, we must be clear about what we mean by “courage.” It is a quality available to everyone.
Being courageous can mean the following:
1) Facing up to life’s swings between joy and sorrow,
2) Standing up to even the greatest difficulty, looking at it critically, and trying to overcome it. Overcoming obstacles is one of the most important tasks in life.
3)Taking responsibility for one’s actions and accepting their consequences. This is part of what we mean by “personal courage,” or having the courage of one’s convictions, and has nothing to do with masculinity or femininity.
4)Tolerating criticism. This is really not easy because we tend to become defensive straight away.
5) Admitting one’s mistakes without feeling humiliated. Many people are prepared to admit their mistakes and failures, even to other people, but they usually feel humiliated in doing so. Only when we overcome this feeling of humiliation by accepting that nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes can we claim to be even reasonably courageous.
6) Being flexible. This means that one is adaptable and sensitive to the situations and conditions at hand, one of the most important aspects of human development.
7)Being prepared to make oneself unpopular if necessary. We should not simply conform or go along with the group; we ought to have a more idealistic view of solidarity than that. If the group in which we find ourselves does not move in the right direction, we should even risk making ourselves disliked in order to help the group develop and make the right sort of progress.
8) Being able to cope by oneself, without always having to burden others with one’s affairs.
9) Feeling responsible for the social ramifications of one’s actions. Of course, this is not an exhaustive discussion of what it means to be courageous, but this list can give us some idea of the state of our inner courage and self-confidence.”
Identify your strengths and the strengths of those around you and let them, know what you have noticed; each morning plan each day with your loved ones including “we” time and “me” time; allow yourself to experience and appropriately express the feelings of sadness and anger and fear that accompany the grief and loss process; and know that by working together in these difficult times we will emerge as a changed world, a world with new challenges and new resolve to improve the world for generations to come.
Thank you for reading this essay, be safe, take care.
Thank you for kind and encouraging comments about these essays. There are more to come!
Adler, A. (1930). Problems of neurosis. (P. Mairet, Ed.). New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation.
Blumenthal, E. (1998). The way to inner freedom: a practical guide to personal development. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
Colgrove, M., Bloomfield, H., & McWilliams, P. (1977). How to Survive the Loss of a Love. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Grief ,Loss and Covid 19