Conversations in Grief Blog: Lights Out
One calm and sunny Tuesday morning the power went out without warning. On this particular day, I was left scrambling to sort out another place to work, all the while still trying to turn on lights that would never come on. I kept going through the motions of normal electric living only to find myself in darkened rooms with no lights to support me.
Co-existing with COVID-19 has summoned those same feelings of expecting something to be there when it’s not. The freedom to just go and do something has been replaced with the need for careful planning and verifying new guidelines in advance. The loss of spontaneity and a sense of fun are pervasive. We have some of what we have been missing but not all. It’s the reality of baseball happening but the stadiums being filled with cardboard fans. The game is happening but it’s not the same.
We live in a world where our interactions, our reliance on, and connection with others feel as if they will continue indefinitely. When death changes that our minds, bodies, and souls take significant time to adjust to their absence. We may find ourselves calling out to them in another room, shopping for them, or picking up the phone to call. As the author Lemony Snicket described, “It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try to adjust the way you thought of things.”
One of the most pervasive myths about grief and loss is that you will one day “get over it” but the truth is you won’t. The reality of loss is that we learn to co-exist with it. The intensity you feel will diminish and one day the impulse to call them will go away. The loss will always be there and there will be times when we feel it deeply and other times when it isn’t even a thought. Learning to co-exist with loss is a significant part of accepting life without our loved one. We learn to accept they have died, that we must continue to live and that we will always live with their absence.
We have been told COVID-19 is here to stay. While we wait for a vaccine, we can choose to accept that things still feel intense. We can acknowledge we are still collectively struggling to live in this “new normal.” It may feel like we’re trying to turn the lights on during a blackout, but we can learn to co-exist with COVID-19. By accepting what we have lost, working to live one breath at a time in spite of it, and moving toward what comes next, we can continue. What has been taken from us we may never get over, but we can learn to live in spite of it.