Yes, This is Grief

By Julie Tudor

We work with our clients through their toughest times and celebrate their joys with them. Now, in this time of collective quiet, how do we move on when we are all going through . . . what is this emptiness, exactly?

We’ve lost our work, our income, our schedules, our social lives—nothing feels normal. Nothing feels real. We are in a state of loss, and it is natural for us to grieve. Grief is never convenient, but it is necessary for us to begin to grow strong and whole again. We are each dancing with the unknown. Everyone has their own way of moving with and through grief, which can be disorienting. Take comfort in knowing there are patterns to the process.

Seven Stages of Grief

The Seven Stages of Grief is a popular psychological model, developed initially by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1960s, and amended and expanded upon in recent years. Here is the basic framework of these stages:

Shock. Initial paralysis upon hearing bad news.

  • Denial. Trying to avoid the inevitable.
  • Anger. Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotions.
  • Bargaining. Seeking in vain for a way out.
  • Depression. Final realization of the inevitable.
  • Testing. Seeking realistic solutions.
  • Acceptance. Finding a way forward.


While the Seven Stages of Grief model is imperfect—and the reality is much messier and trickier than how it’s laid out—I use its general concept (as a social media administrator, moderator, and content creator) to gauge emotional responses as they come up. It is also a useful tool to introduce some psychological concepts that center on this phenomenon we call grief.

Acknowledge Grief

Grief is an emotional engagement with a great loss of deep, personal connection and meaning. As professional caregivers, many of us find purpose and profound self-awareness and importance in the work we do. That sense of identity gives us strength to move through tough days, it helps us hold space for, and set healthy boundaries with, our clients, and it drives us to be ever curious and inquisitive about how to do our work better. Massage therapy is not just a job to us, it is a true calling and career.

In one big ripping and infinitely rippling motion, the rug has been pulled out from under our carefully and intricately built illusion of stability and safety. And it is dawning on us that the work we do may need to undergo a full paradigm shift if we are to save it. Such a shock obviously triggers a stress response.

Quickly Adapt

Those of us who are already thinking ahead and making progressive steps in spite of this constantly unstable ground are committed to adapting quickly to the new reality. We are moving forward to make sense of the situation, and finding strength and comfort in others who are experiencing the same need for refuge. 

We are stepping up to restore and rebuild quickly with integrity. We are collectively working through the phases of our grieving process like it’s our job, and some of us are already working on creating new opportunities from a place of acceptance. We are embodying resilience and ingenuity, which are crucial qualities to have in these intense times.

Our friends and loved ones may be engaging in outraged and panicked behaviors; may be struggling with shock; and may be taking on denial, anger, and bargaining all at once. Let’s have compassion for them as they work, evade, kick, shout, cry, and punch their way into that sacred place of “what is.” We must allow them space to feel and experience their despair fully. We must be there for them—and with them—as they find the strength to pick up the pieces and build a new future for themselves. Understand, too, that you are viewing their behavior through your own altered lens of grief and resistance, which changes your own perception.

Have Compassion

It is important to remember that grief happens in cycles, and just because you’ve moved through one cycle—one time—does not mean you can clap your hands and claim victory. You will be kicking along just fine, and suddenly be slapped right back into the worst of it when faced with the right/wrong set of triggers.

Grief is not a linear process. Grief splays and straggles, and one event can really screw up the next. It may be such a rough process that the very fabric of you gets torn and will need attentive patchwork to make you whole and functional again. You never emerge from grief unchanged.

Recovering from the losses of COVID-19 is not going to be easy, but challenging times show us who we truly are. Some of us are more adept at accepting and embracing change. Others need more time. Let’s invite them to move forward with us . . .  when they are ready.