In reflecting on her feelings during this Coronavirus lockdown, author R. O. Kwon wrote in the New York Times that she is grieving, and chances are, we all are too.
Indeed, the Coronavirus crisis is taking a staggering toll on human life—but the loss we’re all experiencing does not stop there. Jobs, school, the comfort of visits with community and family, peace of mind… No wonder you may be having trouble focusing and sleeping or experiencing exhaustion, sadness and anger. That’s grief for you.
Yet amid it all, there still is beauty and joy. I know there is, because I have lived through losing it all: in 2008, a California wildfire took my home, a lifetime of memorabilia and the space where countless wonderful memories had taken place. Then, a year later, in the span of eight weeks I lost my husband, my father and my youngest son. I’ve written about all of this in my memoir, Six Funerals and a Wedding.
How can we best reconnect with life’s light and wonders during this period of worldwide sadness? Here is what I have learned:
Get Dressed to Meet the World Every Day
While grieving—especially when sheltering at home—it may be tempting to linger in pajamas or sweatpants. To stop washing your hair, doing laundry or even taking a shower. Don’t give in. Even during this time when all seems to be on hold, you are moving toward your future. To help invite joy into this future, you need to be in a place where you can receive it today. Getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed—even putting on a little makeup if that’s your thing—as if you were headed out to meet the world: these steps will let sunlight in and empower you. They’ll keep you in a place of readiness from which momentum and forward motion can occur regardless of the circumstances.
Trust that the Next Chapter Will Be Beautiful
We can’t change the past but we can create a future of happiness and new joy. Some time after losing my husband, I met and fell in love with Pierre. I never could have imagined this would happen. Pierre was not a replacement for my husband—there is never a replacement. Rather, he was a whole new chapter, complete with a brand new story to discover. He came into the relationship with a son, and I embraced this additional new relationship, which has brought many gifts. One door closes and another one opens.
There are other ways to begin new chapters, too: changing jobs, joining community groups, taking up a new hobby. Even in today’s shelter-at-home context you can start a new chapter. Many people are learning languages online. You can find videos and online classes in anything from dance and yoga to knitting and creative writing. Open yourself to these new possibilities.
Accept What You Cannot Change
We’ve all heard the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’ve known these simple phrases for as long as I can remember, but only during the last decade have I become conscious of embracing their meaning during the many challenging situations I’ve faced. Once I did, I was able to make new choices that opened up new possibilities. Rather than fighting to turn back the clocks of time, think instead about what your choices might look going forward like within this new reality. Doing so will bring a unique beauty of its own.
With time, the grief I experienced opened me up more poignantly to the awe of the universe and of being human. They led me to a place of gratitude, comfort, balance and beauty and to new friendships and love.