Why It’s OK to Grieve the Things You Had Planned in 2020


Can you believe that we’re already hurtling towards the tail end of 2020? How can so much have changed, in so little time?

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, creating universal upheaval.

With border closures, lockdowns and industries closing, the pandemic has derailed travel plans, events, milestones and life as we know it — not to mention, the world’s economy.

With this, our individual lives have taken a dramatic turn.

Gone are the days of just meeting up for a quick beer or coffee without planning days in advance, hopping on a plane to Mykonos or even seeing family and friends across the state. It’s been inconvenient. It’s been rough. And everybody is feeling it.

With the second coming of the virus and the feeling of no end in sight, it’s OK if you’re feeling a little flat. It’s OK if you’re angry that those plans you made last year have had to be cancelled or a life event, such as a wedding, has been postponed.

You have every right to grieve.

We often discount others by saying “first world problem” — a quick way of saying, “stop complaining”. However, if something exciting has been taken away from you, it is OK to be feeling the grief that is left behind. This is not selfish behaviour and it is not uncommon to feel this way.

Psychotherapist Natajsa Wagner says that it is important to decide who can actually hold space for your feelings — especially those who may be quick to judge your grief.

“We want to be able to express ourselves to other people who have the capacity to show empathy, be curious about our experience and not make us wrong for our reality,” she said in an interview with TheLatch—. “Some people won’t have the capacity, ability or willingness  to do this — and that’s ok.”

Wagner also says that emotions (including the ones that might make people uncomfortable like sadness or fear) are valid and important.

“Telling someone that it’s not ok to be sad is like telling someone it’s not ok to be happy,” she said.

“If you’re getting this response, it might be worth engaging in a discussion to challenge that thought with curiosity and respect or depending on the importance of the relationship you can decide not to engage with that kind of discussion at all.”

When it comes to actually grieve milestone events or travel, Wagner says that we often grieve what was familiar to us.

“It’s a normal response to loss,” she said.

“Even though we may be experiencing a change for the better or there may be excitement for something new, it’s normal to look back at once was as part of moving towards what is now.

When it comes to our new lives I believe it’s important to acknowledge what once existed, celebrate what once was or what we achieved, grieve what has been lost and then decide how to making meaning of our experiences as we make our way into the new.”

Natajsa Wagner is a clinical psychotherapist based in Brisbane, QLD. She combines Gestalt Psychotherapy, self-awareness and neuroscience to focus on creating positive, sustainable change & transformation, working with individuals, couples, and groups. You can find out more here.

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