Reflecting on the Lost Year of 2020

leaning into fear and grief

Photo Credit: Samson Katt/Pexels

By Breeshia Wade, author and grief expert

How rough was 2020? It knocked most people on the ground. Yes, it was a rough year.

A year that none of us will ever forget.

Even if you didn’t lose someone close to you, you’ve experienced some form of loss.

Loss of heroes. Loss of dreams. Loss of plans. Loss of freedom. Loss of stability and safety. Loss of career. Loss of time. Loss of purpose and meaning. Loss of connection. Loss of faith. Loss of identity. Loss of control. Loss of trust in our country and neighbors. Loss of relationships.

All living beings have a lifelong relationship with grief and loss from the moment of birth, though unfortunately it often takes major events for most people to notice it.

Now it’s 2021. We’re tired of loss. We're ready to put the past behind us and look toward a future where loss is but a speck on a distant horizon, a possibility so far into the future that it bears no meaning on the present.

What Is 'Normal'?

Most people are waiting to go back to “normal,” but we’ve all been touched by so much loss that “normal” has a different meaning. We’ll each be on a journey to define a new normal for quite some time — maybe even years after 2020 has ended.

And that’s scary.

The challenging year of 2020 has put everyone face-to-face with a topic most people spend their entire lives avoiding until they can’t. Until they’re forcefully paralyzed by its grip…

Grief (a.k.a. Fear of Loss).

For most people under 50 who have neither experienced a chronic health condition nor have lost someone close to them, grief is something that feels unnecessarily cumbersome — too heavy to discuss until it’s non-consensually dropped at our doorsteps. It’s hard to imagine in the YOLO era driven by likes, Snap-worthy pictures, Insta-envy, and fame that our relationship with grief didn’t begin in 2020.

We’ve always known that time was limited — that’s what makes it valuable. The limitedness of time is what underpins FOMO and the many complicated emotions we experience when getting glimpses of other people’s lives. We look at the life we currently have and imagine the life we could have if we had more time, more options, more money.

Nothing Is Permanent

We mourn bit by bit the steady fading of our one life, the limited choices we can fit into a lifetime. Even if we had all the time in the world, it would still be finite.

Because everything is impermanent.

The digital age has opened us up to a world of possibility. And with the expansion of possibility, we have become increasingly vulnerable — and oblivious — to the reality of loss.

Grief has always been here, whispering. With every scroll. Every swipe left. Every relationship ghosted. Every fear of failure. Every whisper of self-doubt as we strive to have impactful careers, ultimately aiming to build a life full of meaning, striving to make the most of our time.

All living beings have a lifelong relationship with grief and loss from the moment of birth, though unfortunately it often takes major events for most people to notice it.

The end of 2020 does not mean the end of our relationship with grief. It does not mean the end of facing loss. While 2020 has certainly left its mark on our spirits, it doesn’t mean the journey must end in defeat. In fact, we can use the lessons gained during this tumultuous time to support ourselves in building a life of meaning.

With grief as the teacher.

I invite each of us to lean into our relationship with impermanence, exploring what grief and fear of loss can teach us about who we are today and guide us toward the world we want to see tomorrow.


Breeshia Wade is an author and grief expert who uses her experience as an end-of-life caregiver to encourage those who are not facing illness, death, or dying to be open to what grief can teach them about desire, life, and relationships.

CircleAround is partnering with NAWBO (the National Association of Women Business Owners) in a series of posts exploring women and small-business ownership. Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States.


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves adult women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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