Everything has changed.
As we sit here today facing this unprecedented situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, we might be wondering how we are going to cope. This could be particularly difficult if we have recently lost a loved one who was our partner or our adult child, and we now find ourselves alone.
Along with questions about managing practically, all that is being reported might be agonising reminders of the circumstances of a loved one’s death. Medical gear, hospital masks, gloves and aprons, as well as so much talk of death and people struggling to survive in the ICU, might trigger some of our worst memories.
And then we may also be worrying about people who are near and dear to us. When we have experienced the death of someone we love, particularly a difficult out-of-time death or in traumatic circumstances, we may already be feeling insecure. We know that things don’t always work out. People do not always escape illness. The ill do not always recover.
Now we might fear that we cannot prevent other deaths amongst our friends and family. These are not irrational fears, especially if they are key workers or are vulnerable because of age or health conditions.
And there is something else to add into the mix. If we are currently struggling with our grief, then many of the strategies that we have developed might no longer be as easily accessible. The friendship and solidarity of other bereaved people in a support group; the distraction and pleasure of activities out of doors. You might be sitting home alone and feeling terribly lonely.
This is all incredibly difficult.
You can cope – because you already have.
Sometimes we are more resilient than we think we are. Consider how you managed those awful days after your loved one died. As hard as it was, you did it. You survived. You coped. You adjusted.
When a loved one dies, it might feel like the end of our world. From one day to the next our life changed drastically. They were here and then they were not. No matter how we felt, no matter how fast our thoughts were racing and how hard our heart was breaking, most of us nevertheless had to summon some interior strength in order to take care of many essential tasks in the immediate aftermath of our loved one’s death.
There were things like informing people – friends and family that were further away. Registering our loved one’s death. Planning a funeral, planning a burial or cremation. We might have had to return medical equipment to a hospital or arrange to collect a loved one’s belongings from a care home or hospice. If their death was sudden and unexpected, there may have been an employer to inform. There might have been bank accounts to close or money to collect in order to pay for a funeral.
No matter what else was happening, quite simply, we had to open the front door of our home and walk in without them.
Somehow we did manage those first days, weeks and months. We might even look back now and wonder how we did so! Probably with some great difficulty and perhaps with the assistance of dear friends or family members or kind people we encountered on the way. For those with a religious faith, perhaps prayer and other aspects of our practice helped us through.
The point is that this survival strength is within each of us, and you have already shown you can make it.
Please take courage from this.
You’ve already survived so much.
You can survive this too.
Take a few minutes… 3 plus 3
We live life one moment at a time. If most of those moments are filled with news and pandemic updates, we will all become too stressed and too anxious. Instead, let’s turn off the news for a few moments and think about something else.
You might like to try this.
Think about some of the good things you’ve been able to do since your loved one died. Be specific. List three things. Perhaps something in your job, or you enjoyed a visit somewhere, or you read a good book, or you cooked a new recipe, or you helped someone else. Yes, you did that. You accomplished that. You managed that.
And now let’s go further. Name three good things in your life this very moment.
I will tell you mine. I started this post sitting in my garden summer house. There is a pigeon cooing in its nest by my bedroom window. We got home safely and didn’t get stranded in Portugal. (A longer story for another time!)
It would be lovely to read your three good things in the comments, so please post if you wish.
I will write more about coping with grief in the present circumstances soon.
In the meantime, be well, be safe, and take care of yourself.
And remember, the various support helplines such as Samaritans, The Compassionate Friends and Cruse Bereavement Care (and many others) are still operational if you need to talk to someone.
PS. for those with a Christian viewpoint
I was thinking about present moments. There’s that great verse, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 KJV)
It’s an encouraging picture of him being with us, no matter what is going on. Present in time, present in place.