Grief has simultaneously made this pandemic harder and easier
A common feeling among grieving people is how strange it feels to watch the rest of the world continue on normally while you feel like you are stuck in time. At first, it was jarring. But as the weeks went by, I found comfort in going out into the world, immersing myself among people who were ignorant to the tragedy that my family had experienced. I remember going into the store one day, and a little boy who looked like Jon was running in the aisles, playing hide-and-seek in the clothing racks. His mom came after him, apologizing to me when he bumped against me. I laughed and told her it was no problem, and then before I could stop myself, I said, “He actually reminds me of my little brother.”
I felt my body tense up. Every time that I mentioned Jon to friends or acquaintances, it was followed by a sad, sympathetic look. I couldn’t talk about his life without being reminded of his death. But this woman didn’t know me. She didn’t know Jon, and she didn’t know what had happened. So when she smiled and asked, “How old is your brother?” I was able to smile back, and say, “Twenty-five.” My body relaxed. That two-minute interaction lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. It relieved some of the intense pressure that grief seemed to constantly press against my chest. In the early days of my grief, going out into the world felt too daunting. I admit that I sobbed in a metro station a few times in the weeks following Jon’s death. I was afraid to leave the comfort of my home where I could be sad in peace without looking like a crazy person. But that quick conversation in the store, among the clothing racks, made me realize how much comfort could be found in rejoining society.
I used every errand as a way to calm my nerves. Just sitting in a crowded mall helped stop my anxious thoughts. I had found a way to deal with my grief, and it worked well. You can imagine how hard quarantine has been since this coping mechanism isn’t a possibility right now. I am anxious more often than not these days, and I do my best to find distractions at home–decorating, television, cooking. This is the hard part, but there is a silver lining.
For about two and a half years, my mind and body have been working overtime to endure worst-case scenarios. My threshold for pain and sadness has increased. People who have dealt with grief will often say that things that used to upset them or hurt them have become insignificant in the wake of losing a loved one, and I have found that to be true. So when the rest of the world stopped due to a pandemic, it wasn’t an unexpected shock. Instead, it felt like everyone else had joined me in a place where I was already living.
While some things are harder right now, I can’t say that the pandemic has hit me too hard. I was already in the midst of rebuilding my world after it had fallen apart, and what was one more little hiccup in the construction? I didn’t think that my grief would be a positive thing in my life, but it has somehow given me endurance and hardiness that I did not possess before. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days, and I can’t guarantee that I won’t cry in a metro car in the future. But at least I have a little more strength to handle the unexpected things in life. This might be a strange perspective to some, but I will take whatever wins that I can get, even if they are a little weird. And when the world starts moving again, I’ll be ready for it.