What happens when we’re ALL grieving?

My heart has been heavy with the latest school shooting in America and I know I’m not the only one. We’ve experienced so much collective grief over the last few years it’s time we talked about what that actually means.

Collective grief rocks the whole community or sometimes, because of our increasing interconnectedness through the web, it shakes up our whole global family.

We’re hard-wired for empathy.

So when tragedy strikes some of us it affects ALL of us. We identify with the victims or their families because we’ve been there. We attended elementary school or we send our kids to school expecting them to come home safely. And because we have this capacity for empathy, this ability to step into their shoes, we can find ourselves grieving for people we don’t know personally.

Collective grief happens with…

Natural Disasters – when wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, etc. devastate a city or country.

Public Figures – we mourn celebrities because their movies bring back memories of sharing popcorn with loved ones or because their music becomes the soundtrack of our lives.

War – the heartbreak and devastation we’ve seen in Ukraine.

Injustice – like the marches sparked around the world by George Floyd’s death (can you believe we just passed the 2-year point?) Or the unmarked graves of indigenous children who were victims of Canada’s residential school system.

Pandemic – as a global community we’ve lost millions of lives.

Roe vs Wade – when laws that protect us are repealed we can grieve the loss of safety, the loss of access to healthcare, the country or world we thought we were living in.

Terrorist attacks/ mass shootings – Uvalde lost 19 children and 2 teachers and there have been more mass shootings than days passed in the USA in 2022.

And when the loss is accompanied by sudden, violent death our collective grief comes with an added layer of trauma.

We’ve been through so much heartbreak in the last few years. And although the intensity of our experience with collective grief and how it shows up for each of us is unique – it most definitely has an impact on our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Collective grief can feel like…
  • Detachment
  • Fatigue
  • Anguish
  • Overwhelm
  • Silence
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Helplessness
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Less interest in things we love
  • Depression
  • Even inflammation in our bodies

Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to a loss of any kind. Whatever you’re feeling right now try to meet it with curiosity (instead of trying to avoid it). What specific emotion are you feeling? (i.e. Helpless) Where does it show up in your body? (my heart) Describe the quality of sensations you feel (empty and heavy). How can you express it in a safe and healthy way? (cry) Can you breathe into it and give it a little more space? (yes, the tears create space so I can breathe) Can you notice the feeling and express it without judgment or layering stories on top of it? (yes, it’s ok to feel helpless right now). PS this is a great practice to try with any emotion at any time.

Why we grieve as a collective.

Often we’re grieving the way we WISH things were. We all have a picture in our heads of the kind of community, country, and world we live in. When something shatters that picture it can take us a while to adjust and reorient ourselves.

For many of us, collective grief brings our personal grief to the surface. The childhood friend we lost too soon, the parent we’re still grieving, or the time our sense of safety was stolen from us. All the pain of the losses that were dormant seem to suddenly wake up.

There can be a sense of helplessness when you’re watching tragedies unfold in another country. You can’t vote for change or demand change in the streets and your heart aches for our fellow humans who are hurting. Especially if those problems feel big and overwhelming – we can feel paralyzed or too small to make a difference (If this is you hold on, I’ve got some ideas for you below).

Or collective grief may trigger catastrophizing (imagining the worse possible outcome).  We begin to see danger everywhere and might be afraid to even leave the house. If you find yourself catastrophizing remember “Fear doesn’t stop death. Fear stops life.” – David Kessler

We want to DO something…but what?


I know it’s been said 8 763 425 times before but we must begin by putting on our own oxygen masks before we can help anyone else.

  • Begin by naming your emotions. Be curious about why this is coming up for you now.  Our emotions always contain a message and they often point toward something that still needs to be healed.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Take a media break. Recommit to your own healing. Write a letter to process your emotions.
  • Create a personal ritual to help you process these heavy emotions. It could be something as simple as lighting a candle or saying a prayer like the Metta Bhavana.


  • Kids are just as likely to hear the news on TV, YouTube, social media, or from friends.  They need us to help them make sense of what they’re hearing. Try to focus on how people are helping one another and if the person who committed the violence has been arrested. For more dos and don’ts when it comes to talking to your kids about grief read this.


  • Collective grief often creates collective rituals – protest marches, candlelit vigils, a day of remembrance. Honour and participate in these if it feels like the right thing for you to do.
  • Look for “boots on the ground” organizations that you can support in times of war, injustice, or natural disasters. Find an organization with a good reputation and lots of experience to donate to. Or often local churches or community groups will put together boxes of supplies to send and you could support those efforts by volunteering a few hours of your time.
  • Stay connected with friends and family so you don’t feel isolated – or even social media spaces can help us feel connected to others who feel the same way.
  • Hold space for others to express their emotions by witnessing without fixing – if you have the capacity to do this.
  • Use tragedy as an opportunity to talk to people in your life about mental health, gun control, women’s rights, racism, etc. Or find a local organization that aligns with your values and get involved.

More than anything…don’t lose hope.

It can be so hard to keep our hearts open in a world that often feels broken beyond repair but finding a way to keep our hearts open might just be the most important work of our lives. We need open hearts if we’re going to change the world.

Humans are innately good – I truly believe this. We all enter this world with the innocence and gentleness of a baby and the vast majority of us operate from that place of basic goodness. If you need to renew your faith in humanity try filling your feed with positive stories and feel good inspiration.

Here are a few IG accounts to get you started…
1) Good News Movement
2) Goodable News
3) It’s Lennnie

Spend time in nature and pause to appreciate the beauty. Grab a coffee with a friend and share a hug. Watch a comedy on Netflix and laugh. Remember that we are NOT ONLY our worst impulses or most tragic moments. We are beautiful, vulnerable, and altruistic too.

If your personal grief has resurfaced in the wake of our collective grief and you’re ready to meet it with compassion – I’m here to walk alongside you through the inner journey of healing and completing your loss. You can schedule a time for us to chat here.

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