Sometimes, you get hit with a wave of grief out of nowhere.
I’m not sure I have figured out how to deal with my grief in the aftermath of the pandemic. Having lost three loved ones this past year (which could have just as easily been five), I sometimes feel frozen in time, struck by the parallel universe I now find myself in.
I always thought of grief as the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (not necessarily in that order).
But what I failed to realize is that you never really get over grief. It leaves a void that can never be filled. And although you take comfort in the happy memories and the love you shared, there is an emptiness where that person was that will likely remain with you for the rest of your life.
You learn to live with it — to eventually accept it. But it is always there.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never had a great body. Thank you Type 1 diabetes for giving me enough hope in my teenage years to believe that I was on the path to averaging a 4.0 GPA in health and then squash my dreams in my 20s. It’s all been downhill (or maybe uphill?) from there.
The diabetes diagnosis was enough. But then I had chronic bouts of interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infections, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), iliotibial band syndrome, distal bicep tendonitis, and a brief scare of Hashimoto’s disease (thank goodness for second expert opinions), all before I hit my peak at 30. Or maybe that was supposed to be where my life ended? Maybe my body thinks I’m living in the early Middle Ages, so my peak was really at 12?
What was I doing at 12? Oh right, attempting to beat my record of an 11-minute mile in physical education (PE) class, so I wouldn’t be laughed off the track. Middle school was fun. So yeah, not my peak.
When I stood in line for my booster, I was reminded of the hope I had the last time I walked the halls of this community center – the elation I felt at the prospect of seeing and spending time with loved ones again without fear of death.
After my brother’s short-term visit last November, I didn’t see another friendly face for three months. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s alone. And while I created coping mechanisms and relied on a community of support virtually, that isolation had serious ramifications for my mental health – some of which I am probably still processing.
One of those community members who helped me through it was my 89-year-old Papaw, who’d recently discovered the wonders of gifs, emojis, and text (and who surprisingly shared a similar love of ABBA). He lost his life to COVID in September. So, as I approach this holiday season, it is hard to reconcile another winter without him.
I can’t pretend to speak for everyone’s definition of grief. But death is something I’ve thought about a lot in my short life.
I do not believe in an afterlife. But I do find comfort in the fact that those who I’ve lost are at peace – in the sense that they are not in pain anymore.
Regardless of a life spent, it always feels like they are taken too soon – that there is so much left unsaid. A life unspoken.
But then I think of all that was said. And the moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. As this Reddit post so eloquently puts it (thank you friend), the wave of grief never really disappears. And it’s better that it doesn’t. I am better for knowing them and loving them and being loved by them.
And for all the memories and moments we shared, it’s a quiet two-hour morning in early July that I remember the most. The stress of a loved one with addiction – however temporary – had just passed. And the stress of Covid – the virus that would eventually take them – has yet to pass.
It’s hard to write about things in the moment. I’ve attempted to document my thoughts and experiences throughout this pandemic. But it’s not easy to dwell on that which we already dwell too much on even if I know the writing will be therapeutic.
I’ve been the most absent from this blog this past year. When there is little life being lived, there is little, it seems, to write about. And yet this year has been tumultuous – 2021 even more so than 2020.
I did write a lot of fiction though. And I’ve had more than one story idea. I am at least thankful for that. My stories have helped me escape, and in a lot of ways, they’ve kept me going. Pandemic depression is so unlike any other depressive bouts I’ve experienced. It’s scary, too.
Fears, doubts, anxiety, loss… 2020 is not a year I’d prefer to re-live. Back when COVID-19 turned our world upside down, and it seemed we were experiencing A Westworld of Our Own, I wrote:
I think that is what I am grieving now – for the person I once was and for the possibility I once envisioned for myself. That person cannot exist in 2020. She is gone.
It is true. The person I had hoped to be in 2020 never was. But the person who came out of 2020 was a lot more whole than I gave her credit for. And that is because of people like you – family, friends, and peers.
I came out of one of the loneliest months of the year joyful and hopeful. I learned that I often feel lonelier in a crowd than I ever do alone. Routine saved my sanity. And so I start 2021 feeling loved and supported.
That was my year. Norm, my eight-year-old black and brown tabby, has his own recap. Continue reading
Last week, I was summoned for jury duty in a state I haven’t lived in for 10 years. I learned that Norm might have cancer (fortunately, it was only hypercalcemia, although that’s another long-term adventure in and of itself).
These are strange times indeed.
October is usually my favorite time of year, but for the last month, I have been drowning in low energy and apathy. The momentum is gone. And I’d like to say I’ve spent this time in isolation developing my next novel or setting up a new side hustle. But no, I can only say I’ve spent these last seven months watching a lot of tv, completing a few puzzles, and discovering some new hacks for DIY nail art.
When my mental health reached its lowest, I gravitated towards my support network and discovered they, too, were at their lowest. Nobody was going to come out of this pandemic unscathed. I felt hopeless then. But then my behavioral health training kicked in. While I could not control my external environment, I could control my internal one.
Norm and I reached a breaking point this week. Apparently, six months together is our limit. My new surround sound was the trigger.
But that being said, I know I’ve been absent from this blog for a bit. I’ve still been writing though – there is something oddly satisfying about focusing my energy on horrible time-travel fiction and dystopian romance.
I won’t lie. June and July were rough. I made it five months and 11 days without touching another human being. This wasn’t intentional. But I was unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) to start off the pandemic single and severely distanced from family. And given that I’m high risk, most of my friends didn’t want to put me at risk. I respect that, but it took its toll.
I’m okay now. With the summer heat index taking a dive, it’s become more plausible to see friends outdoors again. And that helps. But I’ve also come to really enjoy my “me” time. I’m going to need some serious re-training to ever be as social as I was pre-pandemic.
And by spending so much time alone, I’ve come to value certain things about myself as well as develop new coping mechanisms to survive in this new world. So, I thought I’d break my blog hiatus and share some of those fun finds with you. Continue reading
Today is my 11-year anniversary with Type 1 diabetes. This week has been a rollercoaster (though I am amazed at how much I can accomplish on so little sleep). Apparently, I’ve been holding in a lot of stress. Shocking. But bodies are perceptive that way (blood sugar levels included).
I haven’t seen a familiar face in four weeks (excluding video chats). The time has surprisingly gone by fast. But even if I am enjoying my newfound freedom and the productive self-isolation sessions, there is something missing beneath the surface. And that subtle ache pulls at me – materializing in my nightly, often anxiety-ridden dreams and blinking at me through the sun slants of the window pane.
I am not quite whole. I have felt broken before. And at times like these when I need to be reminded of my own resilience and feel empowered among circumstances outside of my control, I consult my favorite cinematic moments – scenes that are not necessarily award-winning but still inspire me and encourage me to find the strength to carry on.
Many of these movies (spoilers ahead) focus on a leader or woman (or sometimes that inner voice) overcoming adversity (often through innovative approaches) and subsequently inspiring others through their courage to stay true to who they are, follow their dreams and stand up for what they deserve. Continue reading