Grieving Life As You Knew It

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on

Yes, I’m spending more time on social media now more than ever. I’m finding it to be the most efficient way to check in with society in general regarding the emotions  we are moving through during our global pandemic experience. It’s a way for me to get outside of my own bubble for a bit and check in with what’s going on “out there” in the alternate reality.

In my humble observation, we seem to be moving through phases with one another on the various platforms. The undercurrent of outrage toward anyone and everyone setting foot outside of their homes for any reason remains loud and clear, while a new round of shame washing seems to be emerging as a leader over the past week: comparative suffering.

The heroes in our healthcare industry are feeling the crush and the messages are that everyone needs to stop and take notice. No one is suffering like they are. No one can possibly understand. No hardship can compare.

Let me make it very clear before I go any further that I have the utmost respect for every single individual on the front lines during this crisis. Yes, I admire the doctors, nurses, and first responders without question.

I also respect the cashiers, stock clerks, package sorters, long haul truckers, and delivery drivers. Everyone who is keeping the lights on for those of us physically healthy and mostly comfortable (but for our isolation and the thoughts that come with it). Everyone who was already underpaid and underappreciated to begin with that can now add overworked and also stressed out to their lists.

Perhaps it would just be easier if I said that I acknowledge and appreciate what every single human is going through right now.

I think it’s good to share our stories. I’ve always been supportive of that. I have so much empathy for the exhausted nurse who is in tears because she had to send her young children to live with a relative for awhile to keep them safe.

I also have so much empathy for the stay at home who was already an introvert but is now stuck for a greater amount of time with preschoolers because her first responder husband is rarely home. This mom is climbing the walls and may be on the edge of sanity yet no one sees her.

And no one can help even if we did because we’re all supposed to stay away.

No one can say, “Take a few hours and disappear to the spa, I’ve got the kids.”

It gets tricky when we introduce comparative suffering: mine is greater than yours, therefore take a seat, Karen!

(For the record, I don’t know why or how Karen got such a bad rep, but that’s where we are now.)

Who knows if Karen’s favorite places to get away are going to survive this cluster fuck?

Yes, I feel for the local business owners, too.

What if everyone took the perspective that every human is just doing the best they can on any given day? Would that change anything for us?

It’s truly the space I try to stay in and I’ve been on this path for a couple of years now (making it my life’s work, in fact). So I get that it may come more “easily” for a life coach that lives by this perspective than for those that live by stories and memes shared on social media.

Everyone telling everyone else how they’re supposed to be feeling right now is not serving any of us.

It doesn’t serve any of those deemed essential because they can only feel what they are feeling, not what we are feeling about them. Of course, simple gestures and acts of kindness are amazing, always. Posts on a social media platform can be that. Ribbons tied around trees can be that. Coordinated applause at shift changes can be that gesture. But ultimately, the feelings assigned to these acts are owned by the giver, not the receiver.

We cannot define what others feel. No matter how hard we try. No matter what we do. No matter what we say.

According to a podcast interview that I heard recently, what we are experiencing is a form of grief. And it’s perfectly okay to call it what it truly is.

We may not have lost a loved one to the virus. Yet.

We may not have lost our job. Yet.

We may not have had to send our children to live with someone else. Yet.

We had plans, though. Dream vacations on cruise ships we may have been planning for years. Weddings. Baby showers and corresponding birth plans. Graduations. Proms. Family reunions. Neighborhood pool parties. Momentary weekend escapes to the spa. Professional photos to capture the memories. All of the things.

No, none of this bullshit was on anyone’s vision board for 2020.

And it’s okay to grieve the loss of your hopes and dreams.

It’s very important to remember that suffering on any level is not a fucking competition and we have all lost something huge at this point.

According to David Kessler, we are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. And the worst loss is always your own.

Kessler uses 9/11 as an example of this. At the time of the interview, we hadn’t yet lost as many lives to COVID-19 as we did to 9/11 and I write this, we have surpassed that number.

Friends, this isn’t a numbers game. It isn’t about comparing this to that. It never has been and it never will be.

What it is about is the stark realization that life as we know it is ending. We don’t know what it will look like on the other side. Who will live or die. Where we will work, live, or visit. What will any of it look like?

What Kessler is getting at is that time before 9/11 when we could still meet our loved ones at the arrival gates as soon as they departed their plane. When we didn’t have to remove our shoes or jackets and we could pack a full shampoo bottle and a Swiss Army knife in our carry on.

Yet we need to remind ourselves that every moment of our lives was always uncertain.

As we find ourselves settling in to a semblance of acceptance (yet also stressed about) our temporary norms, it’s okay to mourn the loss of life as we knew it. While I do believe that what we return to will eventually be greater than what we had before, it will likely take some time to get there.

We will likely continue to go through all kinds of uncertainty along the way.

So I invite you to challenge yourself to show Karen some grace and compassion. She may not be struggling in exactly the same way that you are, but she is struggling nonetheless. She has built her identity through her outward image over time and is hurting on the inside. Her pain is real to her and it’s not comparable to what an ER professional is experiencing.

Pain is pain.

Grief is grief.

We are all grieving.

Allow it to be.

It’s the only path toward healing.

If you see Karen at Target, don’t try to shame her for being there. After all, it’s one of the few things she has left, she is clinging to what feels normal, and by the way, you’re there too.

Instead, maybe throw her a smile behind that mask you’re wearing.

If you would like to be coached on any topic, including the current pandemic events, I’m absolutely here for you! Book a free session with me here.









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