ISOLATION GRIEVING IS REAL. HOW TO REALIGN WITH YOUR LIFE
It’s Saturday Morning, you woke up at 6a.m. to take the dog for a walk. Locking the front door you say, “Hi,” to your elderly neighbor scooping dirt into her window planters. She smiles at you and you notice she has a gold front tooth. Odd you’ve never paid attention before, you smile back. You’re reading through the New York Times Morning Briefing, and see the Met Gala is going to have the biggest turn out it’s had in five years. You bump into a runner, panting, hot breath coming out in great clouds. You’re so startled you realize how sucked into work you’ve been lately. It’s a Saturday, maybe you should just go see your mom instead of putting it off. You put the dog in the kennel when you get back to your apartment. You’re rubbing your temples, contemplating if you should pick up flowers. Flowers on the subway- probably not a good idea. Tourists are streaming into the city, it’s likely you’ll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a big burly guy with garlic breath, wearing a t-shirt saying: “I love New York.”
The World Is Experiencing A Collective Grief
2020 didn’t pan out the way any of us planned. It turned into a full blown pandemic, no one plans for that, well with the exception of epidemiologists. I don’t want to say we took a lot of things for granted pre-pandemic, but we overlooked the magic of everyday moments. We overlooked our basic freedoms. We overlooked our dreams, too busy living for tomorrow. Now we’re feeling grief. In his article, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” Scott Berinato talks with David Kessler about the collective stress we’re all feeling.
David Kessler, Author, Researcher, and a grief expert told Berinato for the Harvard Business Review:
The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
Comparing Meaning: Pre-Pandemic And Pandemic
When I wake up each morning I ask myself, is it necessary to go to the store today? Can I wait a couple more days? When I want to go on a walk I reach for a mask before I head out. I bought a bike so I don’t need to rely on public transportation or calling an Uber. I wouldn’t have thought of any of this pre-pandemic. I would have run out the house, hair wet, ordering an Uber while eating a piece of cold toast. I would have been worried about making it someplace on time, not my health. The things we do everyday have changed and so they’ve also taken on new meanings.
There’s been a lot of social media posts giving out advice on how to handle isolation: Take advantage of this time. Start that project you’ve always wanted to do. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t try to do too much.
Here’s another piece of insight from David Kessler's Interview with The Harvard Business Review.
I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.”
I was at the laundromat this past Friday, watching my clothes tumble in the dryer. I noticed a woman standing off to my left as I opened the dryer door. I hasten to get out of the way. She tells me not to rush, she can wait until I’m done. She wants to use the dryer under me. So I started pulling everything out, still a little wet. She tells me with a laugh, “Are your clothes done? Don’t rush for my sake, this is my day out. I’m in no hurry.” I realized as I was folding clothes, repeating her words in my head, doing laundry means something entirely different to me now. How I approach my day is entirely different, time has taken on a new meaning. The things I chose to do, mean more.
Are your clothes done? Don’t rush for my sake, this is my day out. I’m in no hurry.”
The “New Normal” + Making Room For Grief
When people say we will have to adapt to a new normal or find our new normal, what they should add to that is you’ll have to find new appreciation for what you can do.
Taking a walk could've been something you didn’t do for leisure everyday, or laundry day could’ve been a day you put off every week. Cooking seemed like a task and not a chance to try something new and exciting. We overlooked these daily rituals, not factoring them into the little possibilities for joy. But now that they’ve taken a new prominent position in our new normal, we appreciate that we can still do them.
We hope as the world transforms before held breaths, you can stop holding yours. Make room for your grief. We’ve lost people, ways of life, incomes, and so much more. Everything you're feeling right now is tied into that. Kessler gives some really great advice, and I think it’s perfect for how we can go about about realigning ourselves. Stay present, what color is your desk? Is it smooth? Rough? Inviting? Be compassionate, everyone’s reacting to this differently. Is your significant other snapping at you? Focus on what you can control and that’s not others. It makes me angry that people don’t wear their masks right, but I can wear mine properly.
Take back your breath from the busy world of pre-pandemic and breath it back into the little moments that have suddenly become so looming during the pandemic. How many times have you seen your child smile today?
Saying something is temporary is living for the future. Saying something is not normal, is living in the past. Making room for what you’re feeling that day is important, but try not to let it carry you away too often. There’s a lot you can do today. Take a walk, read a book, sit with your child, or dog, or plants. Take an online class and only half listen to it while you soak in the sunshine. You can do many things in this new slower life.
Anticipatory Grief + Staying Present
Kessler said, when something is so unknown like with this virus, it will cause us something called anticipatory grief, which is really just anxiety. We’re sad about the future, we don’t know how much longer our lives will upsetted.
This unknown is upsetting and concerning. We are clenching our jaws more, biting our nails, and unable to focus. We can acknowledge our grief, but in those moments come back to the present. If you’re wondering what you’ll do if someone in your family falls sick, pick up the phone and have a joyful conversation. Stay here in your everyday life.
The BCRX team has been talking vigorously during our bi-weekly Zoom Meetings about how to support our community during this time. So the editorial team has decided to veer a little away from our normal content to talk about something really important: Isolation Grieving and our new normal. We hope you appreciated this little effort to really speak to you as if we were right next to you. We hope that, if anything, you feel a little more comforted than you did before you started reading. That you might be thinking about what this one life really means to you and how you want to live it.