• Maggie Wheeler

Back Door Grief

Updated: May 6, 2020

With the past two months we’ve endured in this country, Canadians must feel as though we are "steeped” in grief. We have lost thousands to the Covid-19 virus. We have lost others for different reasons, but due to the pandemic restrictions we have been unable to be with our loved ones when they needed us or unable to mark the losses, celebrate the lives, come together in natural patterns to heal.

Two weeks ago, the horrific shooting spree in Nova Scotia took the lives of 22 innocent people. Last week came the heartbreaking news of the loss of the crew from the HMCS Fredericton’s helicopter that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. As a navy mom, I can tell you that the Canadian Armed Forces family—those who serve and those who love them—are taking it very hard.

But that’s not the type of grief I want to touch on right now. That’s what I call Front Door Grief. It comes through your front door, it is unambiguous and easily shared with others. You respond accordingly.

I want to talk about Back Door Grief. Back Door Grief is quiet, subtle and persistent. It’s the type of grief we usually try to shake off or delay in acknowledging its presence in our lives. That can throw us off balance.

Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau told Canadians not to wait to get back to “normal”—that we weren’t going to. He’s right and I appreciate his candor. We are going to build a new normal, not go back to the lives we had just a few months ago. Ontario is starting this week with some baby steps toward reopening the province. So we are on our way. But we are two months in and still have a long way to go.

All of us have been suffering some losses and life shifts: things that we hope will come back to us, things that will return but be forever changed, and things that are gone forever. Lost time, lost opportunities, lost plans, lost hopes and dreams.

With the video check-ins on Facebook, I have had people comment or message me that, along with anxiety, they feel sad. Just sad. That’s the need to grieve. That’s the tricky part with Back Door Grief.

We are holding off acknowledging these changes and losses because we are afraid to face them. That perhaps we are only being weak. But fear is not the answer. We need to grieve those losses.

Loss comes to us from the outside world and it hurts. But grief comes from within us, rising up to meet the loss and help us move past it. Grief is a healing force.

So if you are feeling sad, don’t feel bad about that. If you feel the need to grieve, do it. Even right now, while our lives are so restricted and we feel stuck, we are still very much in the middle of life and life is always moving forward.

I live beside the great St. Lawrence River. I’ve written about it for 20 years. And in the very first book, A Violent End, Farran Mackenzie is told, “You can’t stop a river.” And you can’t.

So with these losses, open up the back door. Look at them. Acknowledge them. Don’t be afraid of them. Accept the losses you are dealing with in these challenging times, grieve them, let them go, and get back out into the river of life. Trust that it will take you where you need to go.




Talk next week,


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