Grief, Hindsight, and Hope
As seemingly everything shifts virtual, we are all trying to keep functioning in our lives, to manage radical transformation in work, finances, and family relationships, and keep our spirits up. We are full of activity, full of worrying, with adrenaline and cortisol running through our bodies even as we are in the comfort of our homes. Although for many of us the coronavirus may not have struck close to home, a thread of grief runs through our days. Emotional introspection and communal sharing of grief aren’t habitual for everyone, but for many, they are becoming a feature of this historic moment.
What is it that we are grieving? Loss. Not just temporary losses in your portfolio, but loss of routine, loss of community, loss of easy habits you’ve had for years. Loss of friends or family to the coronavirus, perhaps, and empathy for others suffering those losses. We are experiencing disorientation, and uncertainty of how to best interact. We are grieving the loss of our kids’ events from prom to graduation, planned family travel and in-person celebration of holidays, or the simple joys of music festivals, spring baseball, and the Olympics.
In a thoughtful piece in the NYT Sunday Review, author R.O. Kwon highlights her own awakening sense of her grief, and shares comments from Megan Devine, psychotherapist and author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK.” As Kwon points out, we Americans are uneven in our ability to grieve. We don’t always make space for sadness and sorrow, which in this moment may be creating a parallel “epidemic of unspoken grief.”
One rich vein of current media reporting laments how slow our national leadership was to act in regard to the virus information they began receiving in January, and even in late December. While good leadership is critical in times of crisis, we also recognize the inherent challenge of making sense of something entirely new, and predicting its impacts.
Our work managing portfolios and working with the uncertainties of the securities markets is similar to this effort. While ahead of time we do our best to know what to expect, the precise path, timing, or intermediate outcomes cannot be predicted. Along the way we will face new and unknown decision moments, just as society continues to face decision moments about the extension of shelter-at-home practices, and ongoing determination of what elements of our economy are truly essential.
Much remains uncertain about how to handle the coronavirus. We are still bushwhacking our way through heavy undergrowth of this pandemic to understand how to effectively test people, how to know what sorts of social and economic activities can be safe enough, and how to cushion the extraordinary impacts – financial, physical, psychological – with which people are coping.
Just as we look to history to inform our economic and investment outlooks, so, too, will the current moment inform future decisions. We are learning as we go, with both pandemic management and financial management, and building a more resilient path forward as a result.
And as we go, we see that hope and grief can co-exist. We need to be able to recognize our sense of loss and to be heard when voicing it. Once sorrow and fear are voiced, a connection is made that begins a process of empathy, response and healing. We see the signs everywhere today, as medical providers, various levels of political and logistical leaders, and citizens in neighborhoods everywhere put in their efforts to pay attention, understand, and help.
When discussing stewardship of investments, we have several times recently encouraged clients to look towards the horizon. Financial security and success are best evaluated in the context of the long term, but it is a valuable exercise to know how you are feeling about the ups and downs along the way.
And there is comfort also in listening to others’ talk of their grief; just by listening we can be a balm for their loss and isolation. Take some time in your week to share with someone, or to listen. This completes a circuit of comfort, and sparks hope.
 R.O. Kwon, “Trouble Focusing? Not Sleeping? You May Be Grieving,” New York Times Sunday Review, April 9, 2020.
This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the North Berkeley Wealth Management (“North Berkeley”) employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by North Berkeley or performance returns of any North Berkeley client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. North Berkeley manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.