Treading Water

I have been drowning lately: In the chaos of the world we live in, in the work that needs doing and in feelings of overwhelm and sadness.      

20 months of different stages of lockdown, death, natural disasters, seeing the horrible side of mankind, sadness, anger and frustration and the loss of “feeling of normal” left me and many others suffering from collective grief.

 Collective grief :”happens when a community, society, village, or nation all experience extreme change or loss. Collective grief can manifest in the wake of major events such as: war, natural disasters, or others that result in mass casualties or widespread tragedy.

Like individual grief, there is a feeling of lack of control that comes with collective grief. We were unable to prevent the loss or change, and we feel powerless in its wake”.

                                        Asma Rehman

The problem is that we do not acknowledge that we are grieving (Disenfranchised grief).

I for one, am often irritated with myself for feeling this way! So often, I’ve beaten myself up with thoughts like, ”I have so much to be thankful for! I shouldn’t feel this way!”      

After weeks of feeling lost, I finally took time to look into the concept of grief.


According to the Collins English Dictionary,               grief is:

1.  intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune, etc.; acute sorrow; deep sadness

2.  a cause or the subject of suffering

3.  Informal:  a. irritation or frustration, esp. from accidents, mishaps, etc.

                    b. trouble; difficulty; problem

I think this is a good description of grief in all its forms. Humanity has experienced one or more of the above in the last two years: we are all grieving. For different things, and in different ways, we’re all in at least one of the stages of grief about something in our lives.           

The Kübler-Ross five stages of grief

Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”

Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”

Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

We can also add shock, or disbelief, and hope. Grieving looks different for everyone, and the process is not linear:  it is more like a knotted ball of wool, and you can jump between stages.

It’s not uncommon to be in depression, jump over to anger and by the afternoon to be in acceptance, just to wake up in denial the next morning. But do not despair; just allow yourself to go through the feelings. Do not ignore the pain or any other unexpected emotions (it is normal). Cry if you need to (but you do not have to).You do not need to be strong, and there is no timetable for how long it takes.But be aware that grief and depression can look very similar. Get help when you need it from people who care about you or from trained certified professionals.Lastly, look after yourself physically: eat, bath and exercise, because all of this will add to the healing process.

Societal Grief

The stages of grief and the healing approach can be applied to societal grief as well, but the division and isolation that are  accompanying the times that we live in are  complicating the process of healing.

In the past, communities would pull together and support one another. This would create belongingness: a feeling of security and support that caused people to move from “us and them” to just “us”. When communities reach the “US” identity, people are more likely to help one another and to share resources.

     For the individual, belongingness results in life satisfaction, happiness, mental and physical health and even longevity. The opposite side of the coin is depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Here are three quick tips to feel more connected. These are taken from an article written by Jennifer Wickham for the Mayo Clinic Health System (link below).

1. Make an effort.

You cannot belong if you don’t choose to make the effort to engage with others. Put in effort to seek activities and groups of people with whom you share common interests.

2.Keep an open mind.

Try new activities and meet new people. Consider new ways of thinking.

Practice an attitude of acceptance.

3.Recognize that others have different ways of being

which don’t have to change you. Focus on similarities rather than differences and validate the feelings of others.

Sadly, Cancel Culture, Wokeness, Isolation and vaccine segregation are causing people to feel more and more like they do not belong anywhere (Estrangement). This is contributing to societal grief.

I have many theories about why there is a perpetuation of the problem, but this is not the time or the place.

I am treading water in a whirlpool of societal grief. I know I am not alone, and I see you. I am swimming over and reaching out, because I believe that we can make a difference if we stand together. I am making the decision to love, to appreciate and to have grace.

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8 thoughts on “Treading Water”

  1. Wow this really went to the heart of many things I have personally been feeling.
    That “eh I have been thru worse” and “don’t worry, you know the Lord is holding you” prevented me from acknowledging my own grief.

  2. Alexander, Traci

    This is a great article and written with such heart. It is very truthful. We must allow ourselves to grieve loss. It’s healthy and helpful. I am so grateful for you, Katinka. You are so wise. ❤️

  3. I follow your Instagram page and loved this blog entry. You are in Africa, correct?? I seldom hear news of Africa. It shook me hear you are experiencing these same issues America is having. I read some of the comments on your Instagram and it’s so tragic; the division, separation, and isolation people all over the world are feeling in different degrees. This is not a coincidence. This is a planned effort. People must stand against it. 🙏

    1. Yes Rachael, I am from South Africa, and you are right, it is time for people to stand together. I am holding on to psalm one at the moment where it talks about the kings and rulers rising up against God and How God is laughing.

  4. So true about jumping from different stages of grief and having them not necessarily happen in a prescribed order. I remember when my sister died – that afternoon I was sitting outside on my front steps and when I told my neighbour, her response was “why aren’t you crying?” I couldn’t and it took a long time for me to be able to cry. I believe that the process of grieving for her started when we were told that her brain cancer was terminal – I went through all the denial, anger, depression and crying before she died. The day she died I mostly felt relief that she was no longer suffering.
    Love your beautiful writing style.

    1. Oh, Gail, I am so sorry that you lost your sister, it must have left an empty space that is hard to fill. But you are on point with saying that your grieving started when you heard the news about her brain cancer. Lots of love.

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