Generally, I associate grief with losing a loved one. But as I get older, I realize that grief can take on many different forms. Grief is your emotional reaction to loss of any kind. In the midst of a global pandemic? We are all grieving the loss of the world we once knew.
Everything is canceled. Vacations, sports, gym classes, coffee dates, camping trips, girl’s nights, happy hours, events, conferences, and so on. We are grieving the unmet hope, expectations, and dreams that we all had. Never before in modern history has our life been so upended that we have zero semblance of what normal life used to even look like. And the difficult reality that it may never look that way again.
Everything is different now. It’s a tremendous loss and it’s ok to be grieving.
The loss of being an optimist
For me, as someone who struggles with my mental health, I feel the added pressure to be hyper-vigilant. I need to know all of the things so that I can mentally balance the worst-case scenario with my natural inclination to lean toward the positive and land somewhere near the middle.
As I become more anxious, and sink deeper in to depression, that inclination toward the positive becomes smaller. When things feel bleak, the effort I put in to my mental health seems futile. Which only perpetuates my loss of optimism. I feel this cycle happening on repeat while I stay sheltered in place and to be frank, it sucks.
I don’t share this for pity, but to hopefully normalize these big, complex feelings that are sometimes hard to express. I’ll say it again: whatever you are feeling is legitimate.
Grief with the loss of school
“Distance learning” is a thing now. I’ve never had any inclination to teach anyone, anything in my whole life. I can’t even muster the patience to explain how to scan something to my 80-year-old grandfather over the phone. It literally pains me. But here I am, logging in to Google Classroom with my 2nd grader, practicing sight words with my Kindergartner. I’m attempting with all my might to create some sort of enriching faux classroom experience so that they don’t completely fall behind. The pressure of that is crushing.
Our school and teachers have become such a special part of our life. The thought of the year being over––and so suddenly––is surreal. They had a Teacher Parade the other day and I bawled. Tears of joy, tears of sadness. This isn’t how the year was supposed to end. It stings, too, that they seem to miss the kids just as much as the kids miss them.
Grief because of no more free time
I work from home. And now the kids are home 24/7. There are very minimal places we go, all within walking distance, appropriately social distanced from others. I am hardly ever alone and as an introvert, we all know this is worst case scenario.
Grieving business losses
Heather and I had such big plans for 2020. We had trips planned, brands lined up to work with us, conferences to network… and it’s all gone.
I oscillate between feeling extremely proud and so sad for other small business friends. On one hand, businesses have shown extreme resilience in being able to pivot to offer something new or shift services to online in a short timeframe. What was asked of them was impossible and they got the job done. On the other hand, we don’t know how they will be effected in the long run and that’s very scary for so many people.
Grief on behalf of others
This may be the biggest of all because it has a tendency to make you feel helpless. Grief for those who work in “essential” jobs, for those who lost their jobs, for healthcare workers and their families, for those sick, and those who will get sick. I think often about the loss our kids are experiencing as well. Seniors who don’t get a senior prom, school performances cancelled, missing out on releasing the class butterflies in the wild (very important to a kindergartner).
Yesterday my youngest, who is 5.5, started crying. He covered his eyes with his hands and said, “I just miss my friends so much.” It broke my heart and all I could muster to say was, “Me too, bud. Me too” as I hugged him.
We will get through this, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be awful
There’s a lot of toxic positivity floating around right now. I mostly wanted to get all of these thoughts out to say: If you are not feeling positive/cheery/uplifting, it’s ok. It’s ok to be scared, to be angry. It’s ok to be sad. You may ride this rollercoaster of emotions all before noon. It’s ok to feel how you’re feeling. Yes, you will most likely get through this unscathed but it doesn’t mean it won’t completely suck at times.
Give yourself grace, give others grace, and set up a virtual happy hour with people who make you feel your best. You won’t regret it.