A Different Kind of Grieving

Our world has changed, there is no denying that. We are all grieving to some level, what was, and now what is, with the coronavirus pandemic living here amongst us in our towns. And now what is to become of our world, our lives as we know them in the coming days, weeks, months and even years? As I have been reading articles, going onto social media to take a temperature on the people I know, as well as celebrities, I have witnessed everyone processing all of this differently.  I am reminded many times of the grief process throughout this whole unchartered experience: shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance, and watching my own behavior and thoughts as well as others. I see it with other's comments on these social media outlets whether they realize it or not. There definitely was shock when people went buying toilet paper and many of our household staples to mass levels, this was a way of them trying to maintain some sense of control and preparation. The denial of it continues as to just how big this is, even as we pass at least 50,000 deaths here in the U.S. in about two months. This isn't real, or it's not a big deal. Anger on all levels – Who caused this? Why wasn't more done in preparation? And of course depression sets in – How much longer do we have to keep living like this? What does this mean with visiting and seeing my friends and family? When can I hug them again, knowing that I wouldn't infect them? And then acceptance. Acceptance not saying you like the situation or are even fine with it. But saying, “It's out of my control, and I am going to trust and believe what most health experts are saying what we need to do to get to a better place, whether I like it or not.” And again, with these five – now six – stages, they are fluid. Just because you go through one, does not mean you will not revisit it again in a week or two from now. You move through them over and over again, and back again. That's grief, and the nature of it. Recently, Brene Brown interviewed, David Kessler, an author and researcher who also worked with Elizabeth Kubler Ross who developed the five stages of grief. Kessler added a new stage: meaning. I believe that is where we all are searching and digging part of the time in our days. What is the meaning of all of this? What does this mean? What does this mean for our future? What will this look like in the coming year? Or two and beyond?

We are told that the Italian's canals have become so clean and clear that dolphins are making a rare appearance. That our air quality on some levels has improved greatly since the rush hour of traffic is pretty much almost non-existent right now, and there are fewer airplanes in the sky. So that is part of the environmental impact. But what also has struck me recently, is that we are ALL grieving to some level. That is what happened here in America, as I thought about and reflected on the days after 9/11. People were grieving. People still are grieving that event to this day. This is different, but on some levels, the same. And the reason I bring up that we are all grieving, with the loss of a baby, you are not grieving as openly. You are almost hiding it because you are not the majority, and you may feel judged. So it is not a collective grieving. And what also struck me is that mothers are still losing babies through these difficult days. They just have an added layer of grieving right now. (I can only imagine the anxiety they felt being pregnant during this pandemic, only to be told their baby died.) And having the coronavirus going around and changing our daily routine, I am pretty sure, complicates the whole process for these mothers that lose a baby on top of losing the life they knew before March 2020. They are still processing the world that once was, only to be thrown into another world with losing a baby. And also, support is already not as readily available during “normal times”, this coronavirus just makes that even more hard to find and get. 

I feel sorrow and pain for those that are in the front lines working in the hospitals, and putting their lives as well as their own families at risk, by taking care of these COVID-19 patients. And for those that get very sick from this horrible virus and end up in the hospital fighting for their lives, and then those that lose a dear family member or friend to COVID-19. I think of the pain all the individuals above have to face, and then I think of the pain that they have to endure on top of that when others say, “it's not that big of a deal.” Or, “you are exaggerating what you are experiencing.” Though a different situation and circumstance with different consequences for all of us, this is the same pain and sadness that a bereaved parent encounters when they lose a baby while pregnant or soon after. “It's okay, you'll get over it. At least you did not know them,” more or less conveying that it is not a big deal. And you know what, those that have experienced loss to COVID-19 are not the majority, so their loss is being downplayed and minimized across much of our country. I can only imagine the pain that some of these sons, daughters, husband and wives feel. Almost that their lives do not (or did not) matter. And while people that made those sort of comments to me when Emily and Michael died, did not cause my children to die inside my tummy. But people that can be carriers and be asymptotic of this virus CAN cause and contribute to these people dying. 

Almost every bereaved mother or parent gets thrown into grieving without a warning, and then have to somehow accept it to some level not knowing when it all will end. When will we not feel so overwhelmed with the change, the loss of a baby? When will the pain stop? When will we not hurt? When will things be “normal” again? The answer is I have found, it will never stop hurting. It will never be what it was before. And we have to accept this new normal as best as we can, and create another life that we had not pictured before. I think living through what we did with the loss of Emily over seven years ago, and Michael, over six years ago, sort of prepared me for the shock and loss of change and living a new normal. I am not saying that all that is going on in our world is easy for me, or our family. But I have become more accepting that I do not have control. I lost control when we lost Emily and Michael. I realized that I had an imaginary sense of control in things with life. Being a perfectionist, and wanting things a certain way, added to this illusion. But we do not have this control that we think we do. It almost that we are pretending and kidding ourselves. So now we have to accept this loss of control and create meaning in a whole new way. If we had summer vacations planned in the coming months, that is all on hold right now. They are saying that life will be like this for at least 12-18 months, some saying even longer. How do we even wrap our heads around that? Sometimes we just can't. And for some of us, we stay stuck in the grief process and just can't move forward. As hard as it is, we can't stay stuck. Life will never be the same as it was even in February or January. We must move through our grief – acknowledge it, own it, and go through it – as “icky” as it can feel at times. It is perfectly okay to say you are not okay, and to get help. Don't stay stuck in denial, or any of the other stages – you have to move through them. And remember, you can think you are okay one moment, and then be back at depression and sadness – “Is this really happening to us? This isn't fair.” That is okay, just continue forward, taking it all a day at a time. I believe, the more we embrace this as a “way of life for now,” the more we are going to thrive, grow and be more mentally healthy overall.