I’ve struggled to write this article. Every idea fizzled by the second paragraph. March, which was Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month, quickly became COVID-19 Pandemic Month. People are sick, and many have died leaving their loved ones shocked and confused. The quarantine has forced us to retreat from the ones we love the most. Our elderly are feeling this isolation more than anyone. It is bad, and I am praying for a release for all of us. I know that this will end and if we all follow proper guidelines and the directive of the authorities, we will be okay.
Yet, one question kept coming back to me as I tried to write: “In a global pandemic, does my grief still matter?”
The obvious answer is yes. Grief will always manifest itself no matter what I am doing. So for this month, as I watched with concern for all that was happening, my grief showed up. But I wasn’t alone.
During the last few weeks, the entire world has been plunged into grief. Different types of grief have been experienced, from actually losing someone to the loss of normalcy and all in different degrees. For the first time in my adulthood, I have felt less alone in my grief. You see, they may not realize it, but at this moment the entire world stands with us in our grief. Thinking about it, I found some interesting parallels between what we are experiencing together and the experience of loss families all along.
We have all collectively experienced loss, and these are some of the things we have lost.
One of the strongest feelings I had after my miscarriage was that of losing my sense of innocence. The world that I thought I knew was dragged away from me and I was left wondering what else I didn’t know. I was no longer young, innocent and naive. Reading along online or speaking to friends, I get the same feeling from others. If this could happen to us, then what else can we expect? The veil has been lifted and we have a different worldview than we did a month ago.
Normal may have been different for all of us, but I remember after my miscarriages, nothing felt normal again. Making a sandwich became making a sandwich while grieving my dead babies. I longed for any experience that wasn’t made different by my grief. I imagine for most people, it is something like that now. Everything they do, even the normal activities, is done through the lens of a global pandemic. Shopping, cooking, working, worshipping, exercising and socializing will all be done in a new way. Normalcy, as we knew it, has changed.
And for some that may bring the loss of their belief that everything will be okay. It is easy to get there. I did on many occasions during those early days of grief. And, it is here that I believe we must help our fellow man by sharing what we have learned. We the loss community, having experienced grief, then managed and survived (or even thrived) that grief, can shed light in three important ways:
1. Exercising strength they didn’t know existed
Do you remember being able to support a friend while grieving? Or smile and hug a child even as you longed to hold your child? Or holding your head up as you returned to work and contributed? Think about how these tiny displays of strengths helped you grow stronger and more resilient. Soon you were able to share your grief and help others through their losses. The world needs to understand that strength comes in little waves but each wave helps you get stronger and better able to cope.
2. Developing empathy
One of the greatest blessings to come out of my loss was the ability to empathize with perfect strangers. My grief has connected me to people across the globe. We have uplifted each other in prayer, had healing conversations, shared resources and at times cried together. That was how we got through our grief and I believe it can help others get through theirs.
3. Committing to be better
I remember being pregnant after loss. I committed to taking better care of myself. I knew that I had learned a lot from my grief and like most mamas pregnant after loss, I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure that I didn’t experience another loss. What if the world could make a similar commitment? Can we commit to doing all we can to maintain hygienic practices even after this is over? Can we use only what we need so there is enough for everyone? Will we be better at preserving the earth and spend less time fighting and fussing? The good news is that these are all within our power to do so and require little policy change or legislation.
Our shared grief has a place in this pandemic.
It can play an important role in how we move forward. I hope that we never forget these days when we felt our grief the strongest and use all that we learn and do all that we can to survive and thrive in this pandemic.