Care Dimensions: Recognizing Desocialization Grief During a Pandemic

Voices of Care

Recognizing Desocialization Grief During a Pandemic

Posted on May 4, 2020 by Rev. Donna Spencer Collins, M.Div.

Rev. Donna Spencer Collins., M.Div., Care Dimensions chaplain

“We should always pray for help, but we should always listen for inspiration and impression to proceed in ways different from those we may have thought of.”– John H. Groberg

As a pastor and a hospice chaplain, I have been contacted lately by many people who are having a hard time focusing. Many say the days running into days are beginning to feel overwhelming. I have heard others say they are feeling confined and having difficulty sleeping. And others are crying at the drop of a hat and can’t understand why. And still others feel achingly uncomfortable not being able to make plans and find it almost physically painful not seeing family and friends in person. I concluded that these seemed like signs of grief.

Initially, I thought, boy this pandemic is the cause and from a bird’s eye view, it was. As I meditated on this a while, I wondered about the pedestrian view. Then I remembered from one of my classes in the Gerontology Program at North Shore Community College years ago, what often happens psychologically and emotionally to the elderly who give up their homes and independence and move into assisted living and nursing facilities. It is called desocialization, the process by which people give up old norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors. Obviously, one’s reaction to that would be to grieve the loss of those things.

It felt like a eureka moment! Suddenly, I was able to see the ways being quarantined has caused desocialization grief in so many. When we lose a loved one, a job, go through a divorce, etc., we can associate grief to those things. Can you imagine how desocialization grief has compounded the many losses people are experiencing directly and indirectly every day these past two months? I reached out to folks and shared this revelation. They had the same reaction as I did. They all felt a relief because now they could name the source of their grief and articulate how their old norms, values, attitudes and behaviors had been upended because of the quarantine. Understanding their grief brought them gratitude, comfort and peace.

So my friends, in what ways do you feel your norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors have been tampered with during your quarantine?  I hope my inspiration and impressions will help you proceed in ways different than you may have thought of before. 

My prayer is for you to be empowered to make meaning and find a new place of gratitude, comfort and peace. May we look forward to the day we can once again experience socialization.


About the author

Rev. Donna Spencer Collins, M.Div., is Pastor of the Phoenix Rising United Church of Christ in Groveland, MA, and a chaplain with Care Dimensions.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.