“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God”Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
April was a rough month. I debated back and forth about the best ways to blog, but couldn’t bring myself to put words down. I decided to be forgiving to myself and wait until I was ready to blog. I had to remind myself that I made this blog without the intention of it being stagnant and ritualistic. It was supposed to flow as my thoughts flew. As such, there would be times with many posts and other times with little. My main roadblock to blogging was trying not to offend anyone with my thoughts. Just like politics and religion, views about the COVID19 pandemic will go down with things we don’t talk about at the dinner table. I acknowledge that my views are somewhat different, but I am in no way married to them and I accept people who think differently. I am now ready to present my thoughts about COVID19 ( it has taken me weeks to even say the name) in the frame of the stages of grief. The theme that I think encompasses this period is loss. There has been so much loss for so many people in so many areas of their lives. As I think back on all the blog postings I would have made, they would have been about loss in some fashion. For the purposes of this blog, I want you to imagine that grief applies to all types of loss and is not limited to grieving a death. If you are not familiar with the 5 stages of grief, the stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages are fluid and can present in any order multiple times. They can also occur concurrently. For example I am constantly teetering between the denial and anger phase. I pray daily for acceptance and there are glimpses here and there. For the record, grieving is not a bad thing. It is a way in which we process the multitude of emotions experienced during times of loss. It’s a process like any other life process.
For most of the COVID-19 crisis I have been in chronic denial. No matter what stats I read or news stories that are posted, I can’t make sense of any of it. Thankfully it isn’t my job to make sense of the situation, but I still have daily episodes of disbelief. To this day, I’m still in denial that it’s possible for things not to return to ways we once knew. The changes that bother me the most involve human interactions. The new normal can’t be running away from my neighbors and hopping around to make sure we are 6 ft away for the rest of life. Yes, I understand the dangerousness of this disease, but I also understand that there are so many other facets that are ignored or placed on the back burner.
Along with denial comes my anger. Once I realize what I denied is reality, I go to anger first. Sadly my anger spins me into a cycle of social distancing that is counter to my desire for physical interactions. I find that my anger leads me to social distance in the literal sense. I’m less active on groups. I sit around and mumble frustrations to myself. I’m just downright mad. The funny thing is that after I realize I have little to be angry about, I decide to be angry for others. I am frequently standing on my soapbox about people that were less fortunate before the crisis and the new people joining these groups. I’m also angry about the coverage of the crisis. Transparency is a double edged sword. Although I believe it is good to be informed, the constant bombardment of case rates and deaths is irresponsible to me. It’s fear provoking and makes me angry. I don’t remember another time where we were constancy made to be fearful… maybe because I haven’t lived long enough. I’m sure every generation has had their iteration of this, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
This has manifested weirdly in my life… I bargain about my weight loss. Yes… I know the middle of quarantine is probably the last time some people would think about weight loss. However, me and a few other would agree that they have become more self conscious about themselves. I wish I knew the reason, but I have a lot more self love and body issues that I typically do. Despite wearing pajamas half the time and scrubs the other half, I’m painfully criticizing my weight and shape. Bargaining has come in the form of intermittent fasting. I used to do this method effectively, but now it’s turned into a bargaining game… If I have this one cupcake, I won’t again. Or if I have this extra snack I promise to compensate tomorrow. It rarely happens. I eat whatever with thoughts of YOLO and “what even matters” simultaneously.
What even matters?… I can’t ignore that I have had some elements of depression. Although I never met the criteria at any point, I definitely experienced the symptoms. Let’s review the basic symptoms: changes in sleep patterns, decreased interest in people and things, regret/guilt, decreased energy, decreased concentration, changes in appetite, changes in movements, and suicidal thoughts. I think the time I felt most depressed was when someone very close to me was hospitalized. I believe that over the course of their hospitalization and up to a week after their discharge, I had a mixture of every symptom with the exception of suicidal thoughts. It was a very difficult time. At some point in the crisis I felt ill myself… with something ( who knows), but it did not affect my mood like having a loved one affected.
By the grace of God, I will someday have acceptance. Honesty, I will never accept what’s going on. It’s not in me. However, I do have glimpses of acceptance of something more powerful. I accept that I don’t have to accept this and that I am not in control. My job is to live. I have to hold fast to my beliefs that all things are for the good… This crisis is not an exception. Daily devotions and prayer have given me momentary periods of relief. I am constantly praying and hoping for the day I can fully accept and live in peace. This concept is the basis for the serenity prayer: ” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference… ” If I am able to reach that acceptance, every emotion I have felt would not be for naught. Throughout life I have struggled for this acceptance and if this crisis leads me to it, this crisis was a blessing to me.
In totality, April was a month full of grieving where I mourned the things of the past. However, through my mourning, I was able to appreciate my blessings through my grief. No matter your circumstance, you should embrace the process of grief and not feel guilty. Grief is healthy and helps you get to the other side of loss in peace. Face your fears and embrace the tears.