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It is OK to Grieve

The sun is shining (even if the wind chill factor is off the charts). The birds are singing, the kids are happily occupied and I’ve just received news that my cousin has had a much-longed for healthy, baby boy. But I have to admit, today is a bit of a down day for me.

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Despite easing restrictions across the country, the birth of a new family member highlights things I can’t do yet. Like travel interstate. Or visit a new baby and mother in hospital. And it’s a time to reflect on things I’ve missed over the past few months. So although it’s a reason to celebrate for sure, experts agree that it’s also a reason to grieve.

Dr Jane Fisher, professor of global health at Monash University explains that it’s normal to feel a sense of sadness or grief about things that we can’t do, experience or engage with. “Things like not being able to participate in meaningful work, engage socially with friends and family, and move about freely… These are very serious losses,” she said in a recent interview with ABC.

What makes it worse, is that it’s something the majority of us are experiencing, or have experienced. There are moments we’ll never get back. Funerals or weddings we couldn't attend, important birthdays gone uncelebrated, activities we’ve not been able to participate in and opportunities missed; all are reasons to grieve.

"So many people are experiencing the loss of anticipated family celebrations and weddings … as well as events like milestone birthdays, and children's achievements that can't be acknowledged," Professor Fisher said. And because it is something we are all experiencing, the sadness often goes unrecognised and doesn’t garner the same sort of support.

It’s this sense of collective grief which makes it especially difficult. I mean, how upset can I really be at missing the chance to watch my children play footy on the weekend, when others have had to watch the funeral of a loved one alone in their houses via a video link?

But experts also agree that recognising the fact that we’re all experiencing a sense of loss and sadness is one of the best ways to manage collective grief. As is acknowledging that although some things may not be possible right now, they will be in the future.

So I’m going to take this day to send a message to my cousin congratulating them, shop online for blue baby outfits, then plan for a time when restrictions will be eased enough that I can travel and deliver these gifts in person.

AUTHOR: Natasha Poynton. Guest writer who has been helping us out during these COVID-19 times.

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