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Soheila Pashang Explores New Approaches to Grief and COVID

Tags: Vol. 1, Issue 3, March 2021

On January 16th, 2020, Lakeshore campus principal Derek Stockley hosted a vigil to commemorate the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 that occurred in the outskirts of Tehran, Iran’s capital city. Many members of the Humber community gathered to mourn a pain that was not theirs, not realizing that soon, grief would become a part of their new realities in the wake of the Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2021, over 2,500,000 people worldwide have died as a result of COVID-19 since the first case being reported in December of 2019. In Canada, COVID-19 has claimed more than 21,000 lives. The majority of these deaths being reported by Ontario, mostly in long-term care facilities, followed by racialized, gender diverse, and other marginalized populations. However, as noted by the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic is not exclusively a matter of physical health, but a complex mental health threat emerging from the disenfranchisement of grief individually and collectively.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the overarching historical and contemporary neo-colonial exigencies of racial, socio-economic, and political inequities engrained within the fabric of societies; triggering underlying systemic and intergenerational trauma. The intersection of these chains of unanticipated grief undoubtedly has resulted in local and global anti-Indigenous, anti-Black and anti-racism resistance movements; demanding decolonization of institutional, cultural and inter/intra-personal discriminations. In response to such growing demand, the Center for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity, and Indigenous Education & Engagement at Humber have rightfully hosted various important learning opportunities; challenging discourses and demanding a deep exploration into the lifelong learning journey that is self-reflective while politicizing physical, spiritual, and mental health consequences of intergenerational grief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.    

The experiences of personal and collective grief during the pandemic calls for an inclusive and equitable grief response, acknowledging the multifaceted needs of Canada’s diverse populations. As the virus continues to spread under social distancing restrictions, we collectively grieve for the loss of what once was a sense of normality. To ignite this dialogue, Soheila Pashang, FSCS faculty, guest edited a Special Issue entitled, Grief in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring New Approaches from Diverse Perspectives with the Journal of Concurrent Disorders. The ultimate goal is to promote care and empathy for the narratives of those reclaiming their rights to grieve, in order to enhance resilience and collective agency, while reimagining justice to create new “norms”. Read the full issue here

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Soheila Pashang