I read a newspaper article the other day that suggested that American’s will be required to wear masks in public places for a minimum of two years. I read that there is no such thing as “herd immunity” for Covid 19, like there is for the flu. Restaurants and other locations are having to close, again. Churches aren’t allowed to have people sign during service. It feels crazy.
I remember when we first went to shelter in place in March. I distinctly recall thinking “okay, we can do this for a couple of months, no big deal.” No big deal? As if! This has completely changed the way that the world works, at least how my world works. I wear masks, A LOT, I have to stay six feet away from any clients, I have staff who have to work from home because they have allergies, but their allergies make them cough and I can’t have anyone in the office who is coughing. If you have ever had to clean Lego’s, plastic animal toys, and tonka trucks multiple times in one day (in between clients), you will know how hard it is to get disinfectant off of them, and trying to avoid that smell is impossible. I have to wear a mask to the gym (that feels IMPOSSIBLE). I had committed myself to being okay through July 1st, confident that after that point, that we would be back to normal, and life would be the old easy again.
Everyone is tired of talking about Covid, me included. But I think that it is time for me to accept that it is okay to still talk about it, because talking about it will help the transition from the idea that we will “go back to normal” to “these things are normal now.” This requires all of us to experience and address the grief that we have over what we have lost. It is hard for people to accept grief, and it is REALLY hard for people to accept grief if there is not a death related to it. But we have lost things. I have lost the ability to spend time with friends and family “whenever, where ever,” I notice it on days like July 4th, when we always host a swim party for our family and friends. That was a big deal for me. I notice it every time I see a client in person, and I can only see 25% of their face, because the rest of their face is hidden behind their mask, and mine is too. I hate that I can’t give high 5’s anymore, definitely no hugs, and that I have to have tape markers on the floor and on my furniture to identify where people can sit or stand and still be six feet away from me.
What I want to stress to all of you, is that grief is not something you can just “power through or ignore.” You might not feel sad anymore, for a short period of time, but grief will come. And when it comes, it probably will not be pleasant. But, the good thing about grief, is that when you acknowledge it, let yourself feel it, and talk about it (to a therapist, a journal, a friend, online, whatever), then you are able to move through it and appreciate the things that are on the other side. We might be able to appreciate the new things we learned about our children or family, we might appreciate how much time we were able to spend with children, some of us are able to appreciate that we kept our jobs and were able to keep working throughout the shelter in place, and even now, as things slowly close, that I am still working.
This isn’t necessarily talking about Covid 19. At this point, I cannot be confident that this is the only problem that we will have. Who knows what will be happening next year at this time? Or even during flu season? This is talking about our ability to adequately grieve what we have lost, whatever that might be. I challenge you to really acknowledge your grief, just let yourself have it, and notice how much better you feel when you stop trying to just “push through it” or “notice what you can appreciate.”
My final thought will be that this is NOT contrary to last week’s focus of staying positive. Grief is not negative. When we are leaning in to our feelings, we are allowing ourselves to be fully authentic, which is an important part of positivity. Even those of us who are generally wholly optimistic need to grieve. It is, instead, the focus of how I can grieve in a healthy way. In your quest to allow yourself to grieve, don’t let yourself fall off the other side. You can do it, I have faith in you.