As the sun rose the day after the closure of the state border, the full impact of my decision not to be with my family landed heavily on me as I sat in front of my home, watching the glimmers of a new dawn fill the sky. Emotions swarmed through me; I knew I had to accept the new reality.
In this new reality, I would be in my home, my safe place. I would still be able to curl up in my favourite spot in the sun, I’d still have my dog by my side, and the crashing of the nearby waves would still greet me each day. But the flip side of this reality still sat uncomfortably in my stomach, a knot of restless snakes wrestling inside of me, rising uncomfortably into my throat.
In this new reality, I would be living alone during the looming period of isolation, I would not see my grandfather before his operation and the thought that I would not be able to say goodbye made my heart sink deep inside.
Yet, I know I made the right decision. It is the safest one for my family and the sanest one for myself.
Like the rising of the sun, there is no turning back, only a gradual journey into the new day, radiating warmth along the way.
Many of Us are Feeling Grief in Some Way
In just a few short weeks, the world seems to have turned upside down. Like many others, I have fallen into an alternate reality I do not recognise.
People around the world have joined together in a common purpose, uniting in isolation to protect the vulnerable, to uplift each other in what ways we can. But underneath this, there is an uncomfortable feeling that many of us share. It is a feeling that is, to some, hard to describe, the word on the tip of our tongues, so close yet so out of reach.
I usually associate grief strongly with death, yet it can come with any change, big, small, expected or unexpected. It can stop me in my tracks, and derail any process I am going through, internally or externally. I yearn for the way things were, I fear the way things will be.
The way I operate in the world has changed. I have lost a sense of normalcy, of human connection the way I am used to. Many have lost their livelihoods or had to change the way they work, and I wonder what the collective future will hold – short and long term.
David Kessler, who is described as the world’s foremost expert on grief, explains that anticipatory grief can arise when the future is uncertain. “With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people,” he explains. “Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”
The sense of grief, whether for what is already lost or for what might come, surrounds us. And it is okay to feel it however it arises.
Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. – Vicki Harrison
Finding Balance in Our Thoughts
As I sat pondering my decision to stay, images flashed through my mind; loved ones passing on, my own mental health declining in isolation. The worst-case scenarios suddenly seemed like the here and now. I sat in a mode of catastrophization with my world crumbling around me. In my imagination I sat in the ashes of my life, hot embers falling in the midst of destruction. Yet, this was not an accurate depiction of reality, of neither the here and now nor the future.
While negative thoughts shouldn’t be ignored, neither should they take the reins of my life. As Shakespeare famously said, “There is nothing good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” While perhaps this is an oversimplification in many situations, there is great wisdom in this line of thought.
I recently heard social psychologist, Professor Roy Baumeister speak on overcoming negative thoughts. He claims four happy thoughts are needed to combat each negative thought. Just as when you insult your partner or friend, four positive comments are needed to level the scales.
I knew I must look for the good, for there is much that surrounds us all in every way. So much to be grateful for.
So I sat a little longer outside by myself, breathing in the fresh air, hearing the calls of the birds, comforting each other – or perhaps egging each other on in a festive game – remembering that the waves still crash methodically on the beach, feeling the gentle caress of the breeze.
I thought of the incredible world that we are part of, with miracles blooming from the earth to the sky. I thought of the beautiful new relationship that was blossoming in my life. I thought of the many wonderful years I’ve shared with my grandparents. I thought of the friendships that continue to grow even in the digital sphere.
My life is not the same as it was a day, a week, a month ago. Yet it never is. All I can do is accept each new moment, each new development and decision, and make the most of this life, sending love out to the world along the way.
Each day, I listen to my emotions, I engage with them, let them be heard, and then let the ones that do not serve me go into the abyss of this mysterious universe. The words of the beatles drift into my mind:
“Let it Be,
Let it Be,
Let it Be,
Let it Be,
Whisper words of wisdom,
Let it Be.”
― The Beatles
What are you feeling during these times? What has helped you get through moments of fear and uncertainty? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, sharings and wisdom.
In love, positively and health,