Grief And Loss In Quarantine

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it. -Helen Keller

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I am sad. I am angry. I am hurt. I am disappointed. I am heart broken. 

Over the last months, everyone everywhere has lost someone or something. Everyone is suffering on some level. People have lost their lives or livelihood. The virus continues to spread and impact millions. No one is without some level of risk to your physical or emotional well being. 

The global pandemic plus the losses of lives and livelihood plus the racial epidemic is getting too much to bear. It breaks my heart. Everyday over the last few weeks I have cried. I’m sad and yet remain hopeful because I must. 

We are grieving alone like over 220,000 US families, and thousands and thousands more around the world. There are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others who meant so much to those left behind to grieve alone and some in silence.

My family suffered a tragic loss; my mother in law Patricia Blumberg died on May 15, 2020, at 91. It was sudden. She spent two days in the hospital followed by four days in hospice care. She wasn’t feeling well for weeks, talking of shortness of breath and was sleeping a lot. She got tested for the virus and the text came back negative. We aren’t convinced of the results. 

My last phone call with her was telling; though at the time I didn’t pay much attention to it.  She said she was afraid of going into the hospital and dying alone. She had not been feeling well and she had been sleeping a lot. I listened and tried to be a comfort to her. Because of the virus, we had asked if they wanted us to come down. My father in law repeatedly said no. That was until he called that Monday morning at 5:30a.m. and said, ’you must come, mom’s going into hospice’. 

We all drove down (Mark and I, his sister and brother in law, and his brother); up to 24 hours in the cars as flights were not safe or available. Once she transferred to hospice care, only family members who live in Florida could visit. This restriction changed daily as my husband was allowed on our first day of arrival. I chose not to see her but hold onto the memory of her alive instead.

Then the five of us waited. We waited four long days alone together in their small home. She was fighting; fighting for life. In the end, she could no longer. We mourned together, and alone from their extended family, friends and community. 

The graveside service was small, immediate family only, covered in sorrow and masks. If we were not in the middle of this pandemic, the chapel would have been overflowing with love from her friends, extended family and community. 

I worry most about my father in law. He now has to learn to live alone after never spending a single day apart in 70 plus years. He is in his home alone all day everyday; not able to visit friends or have friends visit him because of the virus. We are grateful he gets up every day; cooks for himself and goes to visit mom at the cemetery nearby. Tonight I may offer suggestions on how to make pasta with clam sauce.

We are all grieving the loss of normalcy and routine during this global crisis. And now my family is grieving the loss of a beloved family member. Easing back into life after a loss is difficult under ‘normal’ circumstances. Nothing feels even slightly normalish. 

For me, I unexpectedly began reliving my own feelings of losing my mother over 31 years ago. My mother died from not being able to breathe. She died from lung cancer. I thought I grieved that loss fully, but now that grief has rushed back and is present alongside this new loss. I kept this to myself while I was in Florida; only sharing it with my husband as I didn’t want to burden his sister, brother and brother in law. She was my second mother. I called her mom. I called my mother ‘mommy’. 

It is the heaviness of all of these losses at one time that is overwhelming; my personal loss, my business loss, my loss of hugs and kisses, alongside the losses resulting from the global pandemic and the racial injustices. My friend Phil suggests that if I can find and hold onto her memory, that memory will transform into my cushion of comfort during this time of mourning.

My Grief Continues To Slowly Unfurl Like Petals On A Rose

There are some moments, during the day, that the grief seems too much. The hole in my heart just got a little bigger. My emotions of fear and grief wave through me; and I am trying not to have them tackle or crash like angry waves of the ocean for too long over my soul.

Sitting with the silence of grief during this time is hard; really hard. I know you can’t rush the grieving process; but how I wish I could. This insight from Manoj Dias speaks volumes to my experience: allowing our bodies to feel the weight of our emotions without creating a story around them is how we transform our heartbreak into compassionate action.

So this is what I now know to be true for me; and maybe true for you too:

  • I know the answers may not be found in books; I read them because the offer me comfort and inspiration: 
    • Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
    • More Beautiful Than Before by Steve Leder 
  • I look after the things I have a bit of control over – my health and wellness, my schedule and my business.
  • I get out of my head and my house on a regular basis to mitigate my anxiety. 
  • I created ‘Team Sharon’, a small circle of loving souls to help me. I don’t have to do it all. Asking for help is out of my comfort zone. I need to honor my need to receive when in times of crisis and challenge. I am exhausted and continue to feel the heaviness of my losses. I am sharing my vulnerability and finding my courage to ask for help. I need support. 
  • I pay very close attention to the words I am using. For example, I say ‘I am grateful that I have been loved by two mothers instead of  ‘I have lost my mother in law’. Research has proven that gratitude buffers the challenges we all face in life. For me it is important to activate that sense of gratitude and to do so on a daily basis. It is helping me cope.
  • I remind myself that being resilient doesn’t mean that you will bounce back quickly or without setbacks. It means having the tenacity to not give up no matter the circumstances. It also means to leverage my strengths to maintain my physical and emotional wellbeing during the time of crisis and uncertainty.
  • I try to be patient and compassionate to allow myself the time to heal from the losses. I am not the patient type and it has been hard to work through the residual feelings of fear and exhaustion.
  • I know nothing helps except time, love, patience and support of family and close friends.

Pain diminishes us, and it is so important to remember, in the midst of pain and everything that pain takes from you, that still… you are enough. You are enough just as you are. You are worthy of love and kindness. You are enough. And you have enough. – Steve Leder

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