What is Collective Grief?

Grief is a common reaction to loss and it is a complicated emotion. Some experience it as a deep sadness, others as depression, others as anger, others as apathy, and still others as a combination of all of these emotions. Grief can ebb and flow over time in a seemingly random pattern. It can re-emerge strongly and without warning after periods of latency. 

Collective grief is an emotional experience that is shared by an entire community or culture. It is a communal response to widespread tragedies, such as natural disasters or war. The United States, like many parts of the world, is currently experiencing a collective grief over the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways it has affected life as we knew it. Not only have Americans lost a sense of normalcy and routine as a result of the pandemic, but many have lost jobs, opportunities, homes, and loved ones. 

This grief has been compounded by the increase in awareness about systemic racial injustice. 

Whether you are watching a filmed incident of police brutality, reading a friend’s Facebook post, or participating in an Instagram awareness campaign, the themes of discrimination, and racism are challenging to navigate. 

Collective grief is not a linear process. This means its expression can fluctuate and look different from day to day. The Five Stages of Grief identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross detail common ways of experiencing grief, but they are not exhaustive.

The Five Stages of Grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A community may cycle through these stages and come to a place of “acceptance” of the situation, only to suddenly find itself in the anger or depression phase once again. 

During times of collective grief it is more important than ever to support one another and find healthy outlets for experiencing and expressing emotion. VentSpace is a free mobile app that lets users “vent” their frustrations and share their feelings anonymously while getting support from other users. View our website or download from the Apple or Android app stores to learn more.