Grief On Hold

You are probably not going to like what I am about to tell you!

2020 has been described as the year the world pressed the “pause” button, because so many things had to be put on hold. Some of life’s most meaningful celebrations and rituals were limited if not cancelled. Whether we are talking funerals, weddings, birthday or anniversary celebrations, graduations or just simply family get-togethers, those rituals have not been an option in the last year.

When you think about it, many of our rituals are centered round being together in community, and with social distancing, restrictions on assembling, travelling etc., perhaps this is what we have missed most. We are after all, people who need people.

It is important to understand that we have been grieving more than simply those who died. We are lamenting life as we knew it, feeling our world has changed, and coming to terms with this unwelcome new reality.

But now that vaccines have been approved and being distributed, surely the New Year of 2021 holds the prospect of a much brighter future, as things return to normal. Certainly there will be relief after the COVID crisis is over, when people are vaccinated and the fear of the virus has dissipated.

Nevertheless, while I hate to say it, there is another looming predicament for 2021. I foresee an explosion of grief in coming months over all we have lost during this COVID situation. Now I know that very few will be thrilled by this prediction so let me explain why I think this will happen. 

There are 2 kinds of courage, the courage to act and the courage to feel. In times of crisis, heroes leap into action often in spite of personal risk or threat; they respond in dangerous situations where split second decisions have to be made, and do courageous things without even thinking. In spite of difficulties and dangers, they just “get on with it”.

It’s only later, when they stop to think what they have been through and the danger or risks of the situation they have endured; they begin to feel an emotional reaction to what they have seen and been through.

Their response at that point may seem inconsistent. After being so strong, displaying courage and bravery in the situation, they can later seem to be falling apart in what is sometimes termed a post-traumatic stress reaction.

My point is this. What happens in 2021 may not be as bad as 2020, but the grief people feel about what has happened and what they have been through will probably burst wide open in grief.

No one truly understands how different the grieving process has been during this year of COVID-Grief.

Suzan lost her brother 10 months ago. Her statement in our ZOOM support programme hit me like a thunderbolt. “COVID has put my grief on hold” she said. “I manage to convince myself that the reason I haven’t seen my brother is not because he has died, it’s because of COVID.” In other words she is telling us that dealing with COVID has allowed people to delay their grief, or even more significantly, to extend the disbelief of the reality of their loss.

This is grief on hold, or to be more clinical about it, delayed grief. So I predict that there is going to be a tsunami of grief in individuals and communities in the coming months of 2021.

I just had a significant birthday, and as part of my legacy in grief support, we have produced a new website which you can offer your families and in your communities. You will find it at and grieving people will benefit from my videos, articles, virtual grief counsellor and other helpful resources.

I believe grieving people are looking for practical help that offers maximum benefit with minimal effort or expense. And let’s hope 2021 be a better year for us all.