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.
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.
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
When I started watching Westworld last month, I hoped the show would serve as an escape from the world that is now our reality. But the despair and rage exhibited by the hosts – from the lack of their ability to control their own destinies – started to mirror my own.
The worst day of my life was the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was alone in the hospital room, isolated and cut off from connections. The thin hospital gown and sheet did little to protect me, and I was then too shy to ask for more blankets. With the IV placed in my dominant hand, I couldn’t write or work on homework like planned. I was stuck with my own thoughts and the mortality of my existence.
It’s what I imagine many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are grappling with, as well, but on a much larger scale. And being on that high-risk list with no idea what my body will do confronted with such a virus terrifies me to the point that I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I have to go outside. Continue reading
Yesterday, I left my apartment for the first time in eight days.
It was sunny and 68 degrees outside. I went for a run, passing the US Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon – fenced off and under construction – and Arlington National Cemetery – the first time I’ve seen it closed to daytime public. I then found myself along the heart of the Mount Vernon trail, surrounded by bikers, runners, walkers and strollers taking in the calm quietude of the Potomac River and a view of the Washington Monument. You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic going on, except for patrols closing off the paths to DC and the cherry blossoms.
Eight days seems like a long time to be shut in a 700 square-foot apartment with a cat whose expression mirrors, “why are you still here?” But this past winter, I spent a considerable amount of time alone – re-conditioning myself to enjoy “me” time again, so that I could recharge and improve my overall well-being. Unbeknownst to me, that time alone conditioned me for such a strange time as this. In fact, I kind of wish I had more time alone. With all the virtual meetings, chats, and happy hours, I’ve rarely had time to myself.
But I wouldn’t change the wonderful network I’ve spent the last 33 years cultivating. So many of you reached out when all of this started, knowing I was high risk and making sure I was okay. I heart you for that. All of the diabetes blogs, commentaries, and posts I’ve read tell me not to panic. But that’s easier said than done. I am grateful I have a pet like Norm. When the anxiety starts to escalate, I stop what I’m doing and throw hair ties his way. His enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life eases my heart rate. Continue reading