Grieving, actually

March 31, 2020

In nursing school, we learned about the great's Elizabeth Kubler Ross' five stages of grieving. When faced with loss, Ross' says, first there is denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

It took me three weeks to acknowledge it, but I was grieving. For the first time in my 36-year existence, I am living through a pandemic. It has altered every normal that I had - the normal freedom of movement, the normal hours of waking up and going to bed, the normal way to hope, the normal way of looking at a future, at days, months, years; the normal way of feeling and dealing with anxiety and panic while making sure there will still be food on the table and money to pay the bills.

If anything, that is the only constant I have: I still have a family to feed and clients who demand only the best service - which, in these times, is largely a blessing and an escape, though at times also a crux. It doesn't afford you a reason or the time to process feelings the way everybody does.

I tried to learn how to appropriate time. I began minimizing social media consumption. It brought me crippling anxiety and fear for weeks. The less exposure there was to it, the more manageable my anxiety was; the greater clarity available for work and family. Whatever I needed to know, I already know by now. Whatever I still need to know, I can obtain by browsing news on the web.


Last Wednesday, we decided to have our senior dog put down. She had cancer and liver and kidney damage. I cried inconsolably while the vets were injecting her heart with lethal drugs. As she struggled to breathe her last. As she was being laid down to a grave next to a tree nearby.

I sat with that feeling. It didn't feel good, but it was necessary to move forward. It was necessary to accept that this dog was company day in and day out for nine years, and now she is gone. That shit is final. You can never go back to normal, because normal is relative. This is the new normal.

I deal with the pandemic the same way I dealt with the death of our dog. I allow the feelings to take place. I accept that nothing can ever be normal again.

Can we go back to our lives like this pandemic never happened? The answer is, we can't.

We are forever changed. What this pandemic teaches is that the only normal, really, is the uncertainty of the future. If we want to stay sane, we have to embrace it, not fight it. Stop trying to bury our fears and anxieties in busyness, and start accepting that it is okay to be fearful and anxious. To be afraid is human. To be afraid and still tread each day is to live. Stop and ruminate on what living truly means. Stop counting the days to April 14 and start living day by day - slowly, gently, kindly, lovingly, with compassion for yourself and others.

“Grief breaks you open and it lives with you in silence...the wisdom of that silence is: Hold your tongue, sit, be present, and bear witness...The only way through is the way through.”

- Marc Byrd

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