Grief is a funny old thing. It reminds me of the sea.
Every so often a giant wave will crash into you and even when it subsides, you’re always aware of its looming presence, ready to catch you out again when you least expect it.
Sometimes you wake up and feel as though you’re in the middle of a giant swell and you’re being pulled under. Other times you wake up ready to take on the world, as though the tide has stayed out all night.
Whilst the waves come and go for everyone, we all process grief in different ways.
When I lost my wonderful mum at 22, my coping mechanism involved surrounding myself with people, keeping constantly busy and planning, planning, planning. I took up hobbies, filled my diary, went on many adventures and socialised endlessly.
I processed the pain by living the life I knew my mum would want me to live. When her light went out, it was living a life packed full of fun and laughter that brought me out of the darkness.
Concentrating on caring for my dad also provided a good distraction. His aggressive and debilitating multiple sclerosis meant that soon after my mum died he had to move into a nursing home when he was just 60.
For nearly a decade I travelled from London to Leeds every other weekend to spend time with him. Whilst the situation was sad, he never was. Though he grew increasingly more poorly and frustrated, hanging out with him was never a chore.
In fact, it was the greatest privilege of my life. The carers at his nursing home were completely wonderful and, with my sister also visiting every other weekend, we made sure he lived as fulfilling a life as he possibly could.
And then in January, in the second week of the year that will now forever be known as the year coronavirus changed everything, he was taken into hospital one last time. An infection turned into pneumonia and his battered body couldn’t take anymore lines and drips and antibiotics.
Read the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
Positive until the very end, with not a word of complaint, the bravest man I will ever know slipped away with his two proudest achievements by his side. Given everything that has happened since, I’m now so grateful that we got to spend those final days holding his hand.
Whilst it had been a long time coming, it was still a shock. The cards and flowers and kind words helped me through the first few weeks of numbness. We focused on the funeral. We cleared his room at the nursing home. And then, after burying my second parent in my early thirties, it was time to ‘get back to normal’ and try again to find my way out of the darkness again.
Except getting back to normal has come at a time when the world is anything but. Living through a seismic social shift of social distancing and isolating, means that all sense of normality goes out the window.
Grief can be paralysing and isolating for people at the best of times, let alone during such an incredibly strange era when all usual coping mechanisms are officially banned.
Learning to live without my dad felt like an incredibly difficult thing to do before we were on lockdown; now it seems impossible. The parameters have shifted too much and the tide is starting to feel like it is always in.
So what can we do, when every tool that we have ever been told will help us process grief, is taken away? When we can’t spend time with the loved ones who are also grieving, when we can’t see a counsellor, or plan a trip or be hugged better.
I don’t have the answer. But I have decided that the one thing we may all have to do is press pause on the grieving process.
We should try to view the current situation as our new temporary normal, a stand alone day in which we just happen to be at home, and allow grief to just sit with us in the knowledge that we cannot fully process it at the moment.
We need to look at today as a singular, temporary entity that will happen again tomorrow as well. And the day after that too.
During this pause, as a bare minimum, you have to get up. You have to get dressed. You have to communicate with as many people as possible. You have to do at least one of the following; raise your heart rate, read a book, watch something rubbish on TV.
It’s fine to wait for your housemate or husband or kid to go out and then scream at the top of your voice. It’s fine to feel desperately sad about your own loss at the same time as feeling scared and upset about what is going on in the world. Allow yourself to be angry and sad and happy within the same 10 minutes.
Bake something. Take long, deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed. Notice all the things you do each day that are a little piece of the person you’ve lost (I sneeze like my mum and snack like my dad – they get a mental shout out every time I do either).
Think of each day as an absolute gift – force yourself, with all your might, to be grateful that you are waking up each day to this new temporary situation, however bizarre it is. Plan your time, but don’t think past the next weekend.
If some days you don’t want to get dressed or talk to people, that’s OK too. But only on the odd day because we owe it to the ones who don’t make it through this hideous time, to come out of the other end.
Then when all of this is over, and one day it will be, we can press play on the grieving process and go back to our fail-safe coping mechanisms; fill our diaries with adventures, surround ourselves with our favourite people and do whatever it is that will allow some light back in.
Our ‘new normal’ will seem so much better than this temporary one. We will become grateful for that unpredictable tide. And if you’re currently missing your parents make sure you talk to them every single day and tell them off if they’re not taking this thing seriously.
When you can see them again give them a shoulder crushingly, awkwardly long hug. Look, I mean really look, at their faces, and tell them how much you’ve missed them. How bloody grateful you are to them.
Just the thought of you all doing that makes me feel like our next new normal is just around the corner, and is definitely something to look forward to.
Coronavirus latest news and updates
- Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
- Read all new and breaking stories on our Covid-19 news page
- Coronavirus symptoms explained
- Find out the latest on which shops can stay open in a lockdown
- Who needs to go to work, who needs to stay at home and who is classed as a key worker?
Source: Read Full Article