Grief On Pause || Dealing With Death In A Pandemic
Last week, I lost my grandmother, who we called Nanny. It was a shock, but I haven’t been able to just stop and process the loss for more than a few moments at a time since I got the news. It was preceded by the news of the loss of a friend, a mere 24 hours before my mom called. While I was in shock and saddened to hear the news, I had to put my grief on pause. Dealing with death in a pandemic is a whole new level of difficulty that nobody signed up for.
Death is something that has been increasingly prevalent in the world of today. It is something that many fantasize about escaping, to become immortal, while others long to make it their escape from their lives. Although I am not 100% certain about what I want to happen to my body after I die, I am no longer wasting my time fearing my own death. It will happen, I will not be in control of it when it does, and since it is something I am unable to control, I do not waste time dwelling on it. If you or someone you love is suicidal, please get help for yourself or for them. This article is not about suicide, but it would be negligent of me to write the above paragraph without including the previous statement.
I am religious, and I do believe in God. This is something that I may or may not have in common with you. I am not here to preach about religion. I am simply stating a fact in my life. My faith has gotten me this far, and I will continue to believe in what I feel in my heart to be true.
Losing a friend and a family member within 24 hours of each other is a lot to process, at any time, for anyone. Having it occur during a pandemic can make it feel unbearable or cause feelings of being detached at the same time. It is unbearable because we are not free to grieve with our close family and friends after losing a loved one in the pandemic. Detached because for some, this means there is no closure, with no service being held in the memory of their friend or family member. We have gone through several life changes during the past 13 months, and I know we are not done. How things will be when it is all over is uncertain. People are dying without their friends and family nearby. I know in my mind that Nanny is gone, but I don’t know if the news has reached my heart yet.
I go to an online Bible study group once a week. It is new for me, and I am still trying to find my bearings within the group. Last Wednesday, before I knew any of the bad news about my friend and Nanny, I was at the Bible study meeting. Something I said out loud still echoes in my mind. We read a passage from the Bible three times and have different focus prompts with each reading. When I listened for the third time, I said, “I am not supposed to be afraid of losing my loved ones because God will help me through it.” Little did I know that I would need to remind myself of this the very next morning.
I am hesitant to go back this week. If God speaks through me with this much clarity all of the time, it will be too much for me to handle. I do want to follow the path he has designed for my life, but this experience I had last week cut a little too close to my heart.
I have sleep apnea, but I do not use a machine when I sleep. Last week, after Bible study, I went to bed. At one point, I woke up gasping for air. I have never experienced this in my life before, and in my memory, I can honestly say I have never woken up hearing the word BREATHE in my mind as I was struggling for air. I don’t sleep on my back, and I think this is why I have never worried about not breathing while I am asleep. Someone or something woke me up because it is not my time to go yet. The bad news started the next morning. It is really hard not to connect all of these things in my mind as I think about them.
It is a lot to process. Throughout the week, I had to work. In fact, I had an obligation to uphold online right after I got the news about Nanny. I explained to my mom that it was too late for me to cancel the online interview I had agreed to, and I let her know that I was going to honor my obligation. She understood. I held myself together and didn’t tell the other person that anything was wrong because I was in shock and because I needed to be present at the moment to fulfill the obligation. I talked about it a little with my colleagues, and some online friends, and of course, some of my family members. Talking about my feelings has never been difficult for me to do. When I finally let myself feel what I need to feel, I am less coherent, and I cry. I am not ashamed of my tears. It is healthy to cry sometimes, and especially about losing a friend or family member.
How am I coping now, almost a week later? I am okay. I have shared a bit on social media because I share a lot of my life online, and it helps me to connect with friends online when I can’t see them in person. I have shed some tears, thankfully at home, where only my husband and cat have seen me crying. I have had moments when I was on the verge of tears in the last week, but as the title says, I put my grief on pause because I have obligations and responsibilities that required me to present myself to the public in a personable matter. Nobody wants to see the ugly cry. However, if you have lost a friend or family member in the last year, with all of the added stresses we are being forced to cope with right now, then it is perfectly fine to put your grief on pause while you go through the motions. It is not okay to lock it inside and throw away the key. Keeping things bottled up will fester like a splinter in your finger. If it is not taken care of. By letting yourself take a moment here and there, when you need to, you can pause to shed a few tears and then do what you have to do.
One last thought. If you do not let yourself process the feelings of grief, which are well documented as the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, you may have other issues at a later time. It is not healthy to keep it all inside, all of the time. There is no time limit for your grief. It is yours. If you need help to deal with grief, again, I want to encourage you to find help. It is not easy to ask for help for many people, but if you are in need of help, taking that first step is the hardest and most courageous thing that you can do for yourself, and for your friends and family who are still here.
Featured image by Tish MacWebber via Canva.