How Are You Managing Your Lack of Grief?

Nearly 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Why doesn’t it feel like it?

Matt Paolelli


We’ve all seen the daily news briefings from our mayors, governors and the White House. We’ve all seen the tragic tweets about spouses, parents and friends succumbing to the illness. We’re all probably at most two degrees away from someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

But there’s something about seeing it in black and white 8-point font that makes all of this so much more real.

This is merely 1,000 victims — their lifetimes summed up by their city of residence and four-to-six-word epitaphs. There are 100 more front pages to be filled with the names of the dead. It is a tribute that is at once both stirring and sobering, especially when you realize that almost none of these people or their families were allowed the luxury of a proper funeral.

So why is that a school shooting or a terrorist attack or a fatal accident — which usually impacts only a fraction of the people who have been affected by COVID-19 — gets so much more tangible sympathy and grief from the public at large and has such a personal effect on me?

Perhaps I am only speaking for myself (I doubt it), but I believe the astronomical number of casualties combined with the weird, solitudinous state of sheltering in place for the last couple months has given COVID-19 the psychological feel of a sad movie, not a real event that is plunging so many of our fellow humans into authentic, unassuageable grief.

More often than not, I feel a social distance from the reality of the pandemic.

It’s easy to jabber over the fence with your neighbor about the inconvenience of it all, as we sit in our comfortable homes with our healthy families.

It’s natural to pine for the bygone days of concerts and movie theaters and sitting down to eat at an actual restaurant.

It’s fun to post and reshare the clever corona-inspired memes of the day.

It’s therapeutic to partake in the latest viral “challenge” that is helping to pass the time and offer some semblance of social — albeit…



Matt Paolelli

husband & father | long-winded writer | cancer survivor | side hustler