This feels like loss
Some random thoughts on how reminiscent this time of lockdown and isolation is to bereavement and what lessons I learnt then might be helpful now. These were some posts I shared on social media during this time of isolation.
28thMarch. I realised quite early on when grieving Bill that playing the ‘what we should have been doing now’ game just spiralled me down wormholes of misery from which there was no easy exit. So, I learnt to be strict about not indulging that particular fantasy. Now I have to turn that same self-discipline towards not thinking about how I should currently be in Salford preparing to take to the stage as part of the @WordsWeekend Festival. Nor that tomorrow I should be on the BBC Breakfast sofa. And neither can all the other people wishing they were there or hoping to have been spending very different weekends to the ones they are currently spending. I can feel my thoughts edging in that sad direction, can feel the foot-stamping toddler response of ‘it’s not fair’ scrabbling to be heard. But I’m shutting the little rascal down. Gently, compassionately and acknowledging the disappointment of course, while also accepting the reality that I can’t be in either of those places and knowing that endlessly replaying how things ‘should have been’ will not end well. I am where I am. We are all where we are, like it or not. There are good things to be found from being home right now too.
27thMarch. On so many levels I am more grateful than ever for the amazing holiday I had in Lanzarote in February. Not the least of these being the stock of lovely photos to which I can now turn to cheer me up, and also to post. Think my cats, my desk, my armchair and Brighton beach at sunset could all get rather repetitive otherwise. I call the discovery of these small joys the ‘gems in the rubble’. When grieving it is important not to be all Pollyanna-ish and only look on the bright side – it is necessary to acknowledge the rubble of the lives we thought we were going to have but don’t – however alongside that background, it is really crucial to look out for the gems as well because they are there and they can really counteract, even if only for a moment, the all-pervasive sadness.
26th March. The effects of grief mutate not daily, but hourly. Minute to minute sometimes. I think that what we are all collectively experiencing right now is grief in all its chaotic shape shifting guises. Loss of loved ones sadly for many of us, but also the loss of so many things we all took for granted – freedom, certainty, physical contact – the list is endless. Over the next few days (weeks?) I’m going to try and share some of the things I’ve learned from having lived with grief for the last 2 years, and which I’ve written about at length in Languages of Loss.
March 24th. I imagine I’m not alone in recognising the feelings of grief hitting me like waves. Grief for the loss of our lifestyles, our certainties, our future holidays, jobs, livelihoods. Possibly loved ones too for many. Some horribly familiar feelings there for me, and I imagine to all those of us who live with chronic grief, yet the waves of this new adjustment still have the power to knock the wind out too I’m discovering. Be kind to yourselves in this uncertain time.
March 23rd We are all anxious. Of course we are. But anxiety is also contagious. We can’t control the C-virus pandemic but we can control the anxiety pandemic. It is just as important not to infect others with your anxiety as it is to not infect them with germs. Hard as it is, do try and stay calm if you can, and protect your, and others’, mental health. This is a marathon not a sprint.
March 22nd. A picture from a happier time – Lanzarote only a month ago chronologically but a lifetime ago emotionally. Worth noticing that these beautiful and hardy cacti are growing out of volcanic lava. From the ashes of a natural calamity good and surprising things can emerge. One of the messages of Languages of loss is that there are gems to be found amongst the rubble. Hard to find them from inside the midst of the crisis, but they will materialise. When Bill died I thought life was over, I was wrong. It feels that way again at the moment, but it won’t always. Stay strong everyone. We will get through this.