As a nursing student — back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — even we learned about Kubler-Ross and the five stages of grief. The leap I have failed to make in 25+ years of nursing is this: not just individuals grieve in this manner. Families grieve, communities grieve, countries grieve, and now thanks to COVID — The World is grieving
Each of these units — made up of individual souls — bring their own twist to the grieving process.
In my family of origin — grieving was not something shared. We grieved by not talking about the elephant in the room. Conversations rotated around this central tenet — We can’t let her know she’s dying. So we didn’t. And my mother, good sport that she was, never disavowed us of our beliefs.
I live in North Carolina. As I type this Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isiasis is barreling toward our coastline. I have friends in those communities who have weathered their share of Nature’s fury. Communities who mourn together and grieve their losses and rebuild just to do it all over again. And again. And again.
Refugees. What would our world be like without Refugees? War-torn countries so unsafe their inhabitants flee into a great unknown with only their loved ones and what they can carry. Camps upon camps of Humanity grieving lives they had to put down in order to survive. If they are among the lucky.
And now COVID. Every soul on the planet knows the word. Even in third world countries not graced with the gift of FOX News or CNN — they know what these five letters spell. A world grieving their dead, their health, their plans, their economies, their sense of power and security, their very tomorrow.
My Best Friend and I speak to each other in length about this. In fact, I think we are both emotionally saturated by this topic — as are many. And yet, to ignore this elephant in the room would be just as dysfunctional as my family of origin and their response to my mother’s terminal diagnosis.
One of the questions we ask each other is this:
How was your day?
Because with grief — each day is different. Anyone who has studied the stages knows one moment you are sitting calmly in acceptance — only to be tossed violently back into anger. Just. Like. That.
And so it is with our families. Our communities. Our countries. Our world.
I lived a long time comfortably ensconced in denial. A pandemic? Don’t be daft! COVID is just the flu with better PR!
I moved into bargaining when I was shocked out of denial. I pretended social distancing and self-isolation would protect me and all those I love. If we just do the Right Things — we’ll be safe.
I was quick to anger when Humans I loved became infected and it HAD TO BE SOMEONE’S FAULT! We had done everything ‘right’!! This was so unfair! So much pain washed over me — I could not breathe. I froze in anger and fear. Because anger is always the cover story. When you are well and truly pissed off — that’s when you know you are scared witless.
I find myself these days wavering between depression and acceptance.
Life as I knew it will likely never return. So many losses of what I thought my world would be. Doors that have closed and bolted themselves to me perhaps permanently. I mourn a vision of the future I must let go of.
And then — in those moments of acceptance I find peace. Only in acceptance. I work hard to open myself to the blessings which remain. My loved ones are recovering. They have, however brief, immunity for a time. We are whole. We are grieving the loss of expectations, not the loss of each other.
The World shall heal. Eventually, as She always does. In a way that allows for better days. My trust in Life and Love remain, beneath the uncertainty.
One day — we will be on the other side of this. Because the one constant in all of Life is change. Our days of peaceful ponderings may not have lasted, but then neither will our days of mourning.
Until then — be kind to yourselves. Recognize where you are in the grieving process — where everyone around you may be in this process.
My family of origin didn’t speak of loss or mourning or grief. We just bore the pain and ruptured. None of us know what another Human might be carrying in their heart. They might be closer to rupturing than they look.
Be kind to them as well.
“Grief is like the ocean, it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” — Vicki Harrison