The COVID-19 pandemic has now taken over our lives and our news feeds for several weeks. I have so many feelings about the changes that have occurred in such a short time, but it wasn’t until I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that I realized one of the major feelings I had was actually grief.
I feel grief that my routines have changed.
I feel grief that so much is uncertain.
I feel grief when activities are cancelled, and plans are changed, and my son begins to realize that the summer may be very different than we had planned.
I feel grief that I took my wedding ring off three weeks ago for easier hand washing and won’t be putting it back on any time soon.
I feel grief that I didn’t get to see my son’s artwork in the local art show because it was cancelled.
I feel grief that we’ve told people we love that they cannot come to our house, even just for a moment, because as a healthcare worker I have too much exposure and can’t risk passing it on to those who are vulnerable.
I feel grief that instead of learning my brand-new management position as I had planned this spring I am trying to learn to manage in a crisis.
I feel grief that I’m a terrible home-school teacher.
I feel grief that I cannot celebrate Easter together with my church family.
I feel grief in cancelled birthday parties and family gatherings.
I feel grief as I fear the people who I love may become sick or even die.
I feel grief that so much has changed, and I don’t know when this all will end.
That grief comes out in so many ways.
Sometimes it’s me yelling at my kids when I should be loving on them. Sometimes it’s me forgetting to plan something for dinner. Sometimes it’s washing my hands so much that they crack at the knuckles and bleed on the towel. Sometimes it’s breaking down in the bathroom at work multiple times in a day, trying to quiet my tears and then taking a deep breath and going back out to support my team and try to do what is best.
I don’t know when this will all end, but I am finding that, like many hard things in life, naming my feelings helps me to deal with them. Anxiety has less power when I can name that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anger can be tempered when it is recognized and acknowledged. And the waves of grief are less controlling when they have a label.
Naming my feelings also empowers me to have control over them, instead of letting them control me.
So yes, during this pandemic I am feeling many things, and a lot of those feelings come from grief. And although I know that many people have it worse than I do, I am going to allow myself to feel that grief. I will own it, feel it, and share it. Because there are no wrong feelings in any situation, especially not one as trauma inducing as the state of our world today.
If you are feeling grief today, know that it is normal.
It doesn’t matter what your situation, or how it compares to anyone else’s. Stable job or no job. Work from home or essential worker or stay at home parent. Kids home or kids in daycare.
This is a crisis of proportions we have never seen in our lifetimes, and it is normal to grieve the world that we have lost.
That grief is part of what makes us human. Our choice then, is not whether or not to feel the feeling. It’s whether we will let that grief control us, or whether we will harness it, name it, and use the power to move the world in a better direction.
We can feel the feeling and then move on, fight this virus, and do what needs to be done to take care of each other during this time.