Enduring the pandemic is like living in a tunnel – we can look behind us and remember how things were, and we can look to the light ahead but have no idea how long it will take or how hard it will be to get there. Around us on every side is a sameness that changes imperceptibly if at all. For those of us who have not been touched by the virus, especially if we don’t live in a hot spot, it can be maddeningly almost – almost okay and why can’t we just get on with it!
Almost is cunningly deceptive. It’s brutal because it is not acute in a traumatic way and thus hard to acknowledge. Instead, we are walking through each day laden with invisible weights upon our shoulders and ankles, slowing us down and requiring extraordinary energy just to do what is normal. If that sounds like grief, it is.
The tunnel we are in is grief, both collective and personal.
On a personal level it is the accumulation of smaller losses that hollows us out. Simple things like meeting for coffee or breakfast. Communal things like singing together in church. Family things like seeing and holding children and grandchildren. Routine things like no longer seeing the same familiar faces at the gym, or the grocery trip that once had a kind of charm but now feels chaotic and slightly foreboding. If, in the midst of all this, we have been subjected to an illness or death, in the family or among friends, a job loss or financial crisis, then we may feel as if we are living on an island of one somewhere deep in the swamp of grief.
The almostness of this time extends to the mechanics of ordinary commerce and society. While our doctors, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and financial advisers are all still around – and in serious need of our business – accessing them is fraught with clumsy procedures and awkward maneuvers. Yes, we can get to them, sort of, but not as we used to and not as we would like. It is almost normal but not really.
It is hard to know what we can expect from one another too. Can we, should we, call someone for help? Just the uncertainty is a grief. The ambivalence surrounding the question of family getting together for Thanksgiving, many people’s favorite family gathering, is also a grief. Could we, should we, can we? National, religious, and family holidays are normally the candles that light our way through the dark months, but now they are uncertain like everything else. Uncertainty, the jello of almost, when we know what is supposed to happen but we are not sure if it will, quivers with grief.
The stages of grief are well-known intellectually: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But another aspect of grief, less recognized, is just how sneaky it is. We can be laden with grief and not realize that is what we are feeling. We may cast about to blame others or ourselves for feeling as we do when actually, we are grieving for something we have lost. Even coming to that small moment of acceptance can be amazingly liberating.
Just thought I would mention it in case you are grieving too.