Why John Dickerson wrote about acknowledging each other's grief as the coronavirus takes its toll

"All I asked in the piece was that we take a moment for those who are feeling grief and sorrow," Dickerson said about his Atlantic magazine article. Dickerson also spoke about it this week on 60 Minutes.

John Dickerson on acknowledging grief

Amid the confusion and anxiety of coronavirus news, John Dickerson wants people to take time to acknowledge what has been lost. For an increasing number of Americans, that means a loved one. 

Behind the growing numbers of people who have died from COVID-19, there are friends and family members in mourning. Recently, Dickerson saw that sorrow up close when he spoke to a friend whose close family member died from the virus. He also saw the disconnect between what that family felt and the broader political debate occurring about the coronavirus.

To make sense of that clash, he wrote about it in an article for The Atlantic. 

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"The response has been pretty powerful, from all sorts of different people," Dickerson told 60 Minutes Overtime. "And so a lot of people when they read it, passed it around, either because they were experiencing grief, or because they knew somebody that was, or because they were having a kind of anticipatory grief and sorrow about this confusing moment that we're all in."

"Spare a moment for sorrow" says John Dickerson about how can we mourn and respond to the coronavirus pandemic

Part of what makes this moment so confusing, Dickerson said, is that people can no longer do what they usually do when a loved one dies. Due to social distancing and mandates against gatherings, they cannot have a funeral, nor hug relatives who have gathered. In most instances, they are not even able to be with their loved one in person before they die, especially if its due to COVID-19. 

"All of the normal coping mechanisms are taken away," Dickerson said. "And that is an acute situation for the people going through it, but also for the rest of us. This is something new for all of us to be experiencing this at the same time."

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Carrie Antlfinger / AP

For Dickerson, that sense of unity in grief is what will help people get through it. He pointed to the collective applause that New Yorkers give at 7 pm each evening in thanks to health care workers who are taking care of the sick. The sounds of clapping hands and banging pots, he said, goes beyond the intended message.  

"It's also all of us neighbors hearing each other, participating in that together, all having the same human reaction, regardless of our politics or our creed or our religions or races or where we come from, that we're all expressing the same kind of gratitude at the same time," he said, "which is not only a good thing to be doing collectively, but it also reminds us all that we, at the very basic level, are all human beings." 

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Sarah Shafer Prediger. It was edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.