Navigating the Post-Pandemic “New Normal”: A Grief Counselor's Perspective - Nalandabodhi Seattle
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Navigating the Post-Pandemic “New Normal”: A Grief Counselor’s Perspective

By Beth Patterson

As a grief counselor, I have viewed the stages of pandemic life as a grief process, especially now as I anticipate a “new normal” in post-pandemic life. Now that I’m vaccinated and can go mask-less in most places, I feel anxious and uncertain. I have come to equate mask wearing and social distancing with safety. Will I now feel more free, or more exposed and unsafe?

Grief counselor J. William Worden’s tasks of mourning model has helped me navigate the various phases of the pandemic. Worden describes the four tasks of grief as:

  • Accepting the reality of the loss.
  • Processing the pain of grief.
  • Adjusting to a world without our loved  one, or in the case of the pandemic, without our daily routines.
  • Finding an enduring connection with who or what has been lost while embarking on a new life.

We have largely worked through the first three tasks of grief described above. Generally speaking, we have accepted the reality of the pandemic, (the first task) and processed the pain of the losses endured during the pandemic (the second task). With respect to the third task of grief, we have made many adjustments to our lives over the last fourteen months, including lockdowns, facemasks, social distancing and life on Zoom.

We are now on the threshold of the fourth task of grief: embarking on a new post-pandemic life. This task of grief involves creating a balance between remembering our loss and living a full and meaningful life.

I know that despite the difficulties I endured during this time, I have also learned so much, and have so much to appreciate. Nonetheless, anxiety and uncertainty about the “new normal” abound: What will the new normal look like in a world where I can again socialize without a mask and social distancing, as Covid-19 becomes a thing of the past? Will my favorite lockdown YouTube dogs Olive and Mabel continue their antics with play-by-play from their Scottish sportscaster “dad”? How can I justify binge watching shows on Netflix and Hulu once the pandemic is over?

There are some things about life during this time of pandemic that I will actually miss. Being an introvert, I have been comfortable staying home without feeling guilty about it, and having time to read and write. Practicing with and getting to know my Buddhist community throughout the world on Zoom has been an enormous benefit, and I’ve developed many new connections and friendships with people I may not have otherwise met.

In navigating this fourth task of grief, I have found it helpful to contemplate and journal about what this time has meant to me. Here are some questions to contemplate, to help you move forward and navigate the post-pandemic new normal:

  • What have I learned about myself during this time of pandemic loss?
  • What do I want to keep from this grief process, and what do I want to discard?
  • Have my values or spiritual beliefs changed during this time, and if so, how?
  • What do I appreciate about how I have navigated the pandemic?
  • What did I take for granted before the pandemic that I no longer want to take for granted?

May your journey be fruitful, and may you flourish as you shed your masks.

© 2021. Beth S. Patterson. All rights reserved.

Beth Patterson is a licensed psychotherapist and grief counselor in Oregon, in private practice since 2006.

She earned her master’s degree in transpersonal counseling psychology from Naropa University in Boulder, Colo. 

Beth is a hospice-trained grief counselor, with intensive training to work with individuals, children, adolescents and groups. She also is a certified mindfulness meditation instructor.

Explore More Posts


Online Tara Drupchen

We joyfully announce the sixth annual Tara Drupchen to be held by the Nalandabodhi International sangha: September 24th – 26th. This weekend practice intensive includes sadhana or ritual practice, meditations, and teachings from Nalandabodhi teachers. All are welcome to attend online, make prayer requests, and offer positive aspirations by registering for this free event. Your offerings and donations are appreciated.

Read More >

Songs of Milarepa: An Online Retreat

Milarepa is a renowned figure in Tibetan culture. During this Oct. 9-11 online retreat, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Lama Rabten Tshering and Mitra Tyler Dewar will teach on the songs and life story of Milarepa, and how they are relevant to our lives today. Meditation sessions will help us integrate these teachings.

Read More >

Mahamudra Online Retreat

Mahamudra is the natural state of our being –– a life-changing practice that extracts the essential points of the Buddha’s teachings. During this retreat, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche will be giving the profound key instructions that will allow participants to practice Mahamudra, and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen will lead the actual meditation practice.

Read More >