TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of loss for nearly everyone in the world, whether losing a loved one, a job, or a sense of normalcy, there’s a collective grieving across the globe.
In Canada, as of April 28, more than 24,000 people have died from COVID-19. Globally, that number is 3.1 million, according to John Hopkins University.
There’s no right way to handle grief, but Jason Rosenthal has become a sort of expert after being launched to recognition in 2017 after his dying wife, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, wrote a New York Times ‘Modern Love’ essay that was read by millions.
The essay, titled: ‘You May Want to Marry my Husband’, gripped many around the world. Jason followed it up with a TED Talk and in 2020, a memoir called: ‘My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me.’ While he may not be an educated grief counsellor, he has some advice for the millions of people clawing their way through the darkness that is grief.
“The truth is we don’t really talk about grief much in society, you know, it’s sort of one of these taboo subjects,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Talking about grief is what Jason has been doing since Amy’s death, and he’s seen that his story has helped other people deal with their own grief and make sense of what to do with it.
“What does one do with this new empty space that they have? When someone’s gone in their lives, there’s two ways to go. One is to just go into deep dark depression, or you can find your way somehow to make the best of that new space,” he said.
For Jason, grief isn’t linear. It doesn’t have any rhyme or reason.
“There are these infamous stages of grief that, for me, I found that grief really has no timetable,” he said. “It’s true at the beginning, it’s deep and it’s dark and the grip is so tight, but even that period of time, it’s different for everyone.”
The more he spoke about his grief, the more people wanted to hear from him. People shared their stories of loss, whether it was the death of a loved one, a divorce, a lost job, or the death of a pet.
And even though he chose to step out of the dark side of grief, and worked to build so much good through it, he said it’s perfectly OK to get lost in it.
“It’s OK to go really heavily into that dark place, into that grief space, and be there and sit there for as long as you need to,” he added.
Milestones like birthdays, anniversaries will be difficult each year, but not the hardest part.
“The hardest thing for those of us that have been through this situation are those little moments in between, when you’re just walking down the street on a Thursday and you see something that reminds you of that person or you hear a song or you read a poem or whatever you see a flower whatever that situation is. A lot of times I find those moments are even more difficult,” he said.
If someone you know is grieving, talk to them, he urges. Because grief is seen as such a taboo subject, he said to be honest about the discomfort but to establish that connection.
“You know there’s no easy way to do this, and just be really honest about that,” he said. “That’s a connection, that’s a real, true connection and I think people really feel supported by that.”
For the millions experiencing loss this year, he said it’s important to find moments of happiness.
“You start at a place of really, really intense grief, and then you find yourself experiencing a little bit of joy…I really think it’s important to celebrate those moments, really important,” he said.
Happiness might seem far off, but he said, it will come back again.
“I promise you that slowly, slowly that does tend to happen as life proceeds forward without that person that you lost.”
With some parts of the world returning to normal, moments of loss may bubble back to the surface.
“You take a couple steps forward, you take a few back, you take a couple steps forward and one back, and that that pattern just exists for a while, but I think that’s healthy and that’s OK.”
People who have lost someone they love shouldn’t feel guilty when they do get to experience moments of happiness, no matter how big or small, he said.
“I think we need to give ourselves a little permission to celebrate these little milestones, and to appreciate these moments, because as we’ve seen with this this year alone, we never, ever know how much time we have here,” he said.
He has a promise for people who are in the grips of grief: “I would promise that person what someone promised me and that is, at some point, you will find some joy in this life, because there’s a ton of beauty here.”
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