The uncertainty of the future during this ongoing pandemic is especially triggering for those dealing with grief. This a reminder of strength for those who need to hear it
When someone dies, it feels like the only thing you can do is distract yourself from the pain you feel… a heavy heart, a knot of constant anxiety and a never-ending longing for just one more minute with them.
Yet, as we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, we are encouraged to be still, away from the routine of everyday life and all the distractions that come with it. Instead, days are spent inside. Many of us are filled with unnerving confusion and a want for things to be like they were before - much like when you’re grieving.
My dad died six years ago and my world has never been the same. The rest of the world goes by, yet mine was rocked, altered and changed forever in one significant day. I know they say that time is a great healer, but you just adapt to your new normal - not out of want, but out of need.
Although days, months and years pass, the loss of someone you love remains. Even on the happiest days, it’s there… it lingers. Grief sticks to you like nothing else. It can arise during the darkest of moments or the brightest ones. It’s there when you’re alone on a train journey or in a room full of people. Grief is truly isolating.
The feelings triggered by the outbreak remind me of grieving – simmering, sometimes overwhelming anxiety and an intense uncertainty about the future. This is my letter to you – to anyone grieving – to remind you that you aren’t alone in all of this, no matter how much you might think you are.
When the anxiety of death sweeps over your being, know that people do understand. They are there. The Grief Network, The Dinner Party and Let's Talk About Loss are all great communities of support. News that screeches scary statistics, panic and worry can seem more overwhelming after losing someone. Know that keeping yourself and loved ones safe is the most powerful thing you can do, please take great comfort from that.
There will be quiet moments in the day. Waiting for the kettle to boil, work goes quiet or you find yourself alone with nothing but the soft sound of life passing by. It’s in these moments that we miss them the most. The stillness allows you to wonder what they’d make of this chaos.
When worries about the currently uncertain future knock you again, fear not. Like when you’re grieving, the future doesn’t feel bright right now. Days merge, conversations numb and you can’t picture how this will all work out. Not knowing how long we have to isolate for is scary. But one day we won’t, one day things will get better.
When isolation means more than keeping safe from a virus, when it triggers self-doubt, fear, dread, despair or depression, know it’s not just you. Self-isolation and social distancing give rise to grief. These long, freer days allow us to reflect on sadder times. Remember that life can be euphorically good, then it can be cruel. It can be fast-paced, then mundane. Your heart will break, then slowly, try to mend. These contrasts are what it means to be alive. Allow the sad days, because they’re what make the good ones feel even better.
If government guidelines prevent you from being able to truly grieve - going to the funeral, seeking comfort from others, having the last goodbye - take comfort in your rich history of memories that will keep the soul happy. Remember that despite the distance, people are there for you. Speak to friends, family, neighbours… anyone that wants to listen, because I promise you, people do.
When you know of others grieving and your heart aches for them, be what they need most. Pick up the phone, send flowers, write letters, find support groups, send songs they’ll love, FaceTime with a glass of wine. Be mindful online, there's no need to thank your mother on social media this Mother's Day, just tell her instead if you're lucky enough to be able to. As you know, little notes of thoughtfulness go a long way in times like these. Be their safe space.
When the date is painful as the calendar lands on anniversaries, missed birthdays or another Mother’s Day without them there, take your time. These reminders are hard and, in unprecedented times, they hurt even more. Go at your own pace, if you want to go silent that’s okay. Just know people are there when you want to be heard.
Such a panic-inducing period brings up all other kinds of anxieties that can make us feel like we’re back on the same unsettling road of grief. There are parallels - we long for a time that seemed so much simpler before, the freedom of other thoughts and not worrying about what the future looks like.
Remember that, although we find ourselves in a scary, uncertain time, you aren’t in this on your own. The future may be shaken, but there’s one thing for sure, you’re strong enough to see this through again.
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