Due to the pandemic, people are losing loved ones and having to arrange funeral services with major restrictions. In an already overwhelming time, it has made everything seem even more cruel. This has been our family’s recent reality. Our beloved father, father-in-law, poppy, brother and friend passed away and the service arrangements had to be within strict boundaries including a maximum of 10 people who could attend (including the celebrant) and chairs separated to abide by the social distancing rule! This is not dissimilar to many countries around the world who have put in place similar controls.
So I get it. This time is devastating. It’s hard not to feel punished and penalized in some way. With a PhD in public health and community medicine who has taught many students about the difficult public health decisions you have to make during a pandemic, you would think that I would see this coming. Think again.
On a global scale, there is no doubt this pandemic is a crisis, it’s real and it’s scary. We have to socially distance. People are sick, many have died and the numbers are rising in many countries. The pandemic has necessitated everyone to adjust their usual way of living, some more monumental than others. People despise the disruption and many are just trudging through the days. People are experiencing everything from what my friend, a neurologist calls ‘pre traumatic stress’ that healthcare workers are experiencing to get ready for what is looming; to the sheer panic of people losing their jobs to many having to face the reality of unemployment. With regular activities, celebrations and funerals being constrained, many people feel at a total loss and defeated.
But, I am calling it now. We will glorify the past about this historically exhausting time in many respects. Things that are causing us pain and discomfort will also provide elements of peace and goodwill. Like the supermarkets not having certain supplies, we will try new foods and realize we can live with less. Like the fact that we can’t congregate in groups, we get to spend a little more time on our own or immediate family. That we have had to cancel travel plans, we get to create a different kind of holiday at home. That we can’t go into our schools and workplaces, we get to learn how useful technology can be. That we can’t get married or have funerals in the venue and style we want, we get to experience a more intimate occasion.
Life is not easy in many ways. This week my family has been overcome with grief that will take years to come to terms with, not just the grief for our family member who has died, but for the fact that we couldn’t control our own service in the manner we wanted with our many loved ones present.
But there is a silver lining in everything, yes even this. It’s not me being a Pollyanna, it’s just a choice and broader awareness of life that includes some benefit or good from any hardship. To give a degree of ease amidst such natural suffering is surely worthy of something. We can do this in the present moment the best way we can and not wait for the future to glorify aspects of it.
My father in law was an unassuming yet strong presence in our lives who had utter pride for his immediate family. He didn’t want fuss, never did. There is probably a decent chance that the restrictions were just fine to him. Other than us, he would have very much valued his brothers and sister there but probably not many more. He always used to say ‘that’s life, we just have to go on’.
So can we have hindsight now and acknowledge that there are some small but meaningful things that we can appreciate or find peace with in the awfulness of present circumstances and inconveniences. As we all have to tolerate this pandemic, we have a daily choice to see the good and the bad, the blessings and the misfortunes and find our own ways toward some semblance of balance or levelheadedness.
We need to allow the grieving process to run its course, there is no doubt. All of us individually and as a collective community need to put one step in front of the other and continue with life.