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Grieving a pandemic

Saturday as I drove away from Oxford, I felt deeply sad.  I was very glad to see our children, to laugh with them, to plan with them, to listen to their concerns and opinions.  I always learn from them.  It is a joy to share time together.  And it almost felt normal.  Yet at the end of the day I was still sad.  There were no hugs.  There is no plan for being together again.  Life is very fragile.  WE hope we will be together again but we know others who have had that joy.  We do not know what the next few weeks or months will hold. 

There have been many losses in the past few months.  People have died.  Weddings have been cancelled.  Education has been curtailed.  People have been made redundant.  Relationships have changed and ended.  The list is endless.  All of these are grief.  They are big and little things to mourn.  

Grief is a very individual thing.  There may be a cycle of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross but each of us go through that cycle differently and react differently,  Some of us are very open with our grief.  I remember my shock at attending a family in A and E whose son had died.  They were literally wailing as they grieved his death.  Some of us are very private with our grief.  I remember a woman whose husband died and she said she had been taught never to cry in public.  She said, ‘You will never see me cry, but know that I do—when I am alone.’  Grief is expressed differently in each of us.

For many of us this pandemic is simply a time of survival.  We  do our best to get through the time that stretches before us.  Energy is used for work and mundane tasks.  Tomorrow is a day that holds the same.  No wonder people want to go on holiday, despite the risk.  I have a desire to escape the mundane and the grief and feel ‘normal’.  A holiday might help me pretend there is a “normal.” 

Yesterday was a lovely day with no sadness at the end, but I find I move in and out of the cycles of grief.  I am grateful for what I do have.  I miss what will not be. I deny it is as bad as it is—surely everything will be back to normal soon.  I accept life as it is.  I am slightly angry—mostly at politicians, occasionally at people who invade my space or fail to see risk the way I do.    I don’t really bargain—but society seems to do this.  Are we trading  economic recovery for increased virus or opening  schools vs closing pubs? 

There is a sixth part of grief.  Apparently, Kubler-Ross came to this before her death, but it isn’t reported often.  It is meaning.  To best survive grief we have to find meaning.  I think for many of us faith gives us the shape of meaning.  I have not yet decided what the meaning in the pandemic is.  It is being suggested that is it challenging us to slow down, to respond to the climate differently, to value those who are underpaid but do essential work.  I think perhaps seeking meaning now, while we are so enmeshed in the pandemic, reflects a desire to circumvent the work of grief.  So I wonder whether we can sit with our sadness for awhile, allow others to grieve?  Through the work of grief meaning may emerge.  I am not ready for meaing.  I just need to cry some days and laugh other days--just get through togehter.

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