One step at a time, grief processing as a road map for family life.
Right at this moment I’m sitting at home, alone. My two daughters are with their dad, and I have some time for myself for the first time in two weeks. I promised myself a slow morning where I would leave all the housework and other chores that are waiting for me – not a small feat for me – and instead give myself some space to think about this article as well as thoughts and emotions that needed some free-flow movement in my brain and body.
Beauty touched my pain
I fell upon an Instagram post, with videos of a grandson who had set up a celebration of his grandfather who turned 100 in the middle of lockdown. A whole parade of cars passed the grandfather who stood outside his house, and it was utterly moving to watch this humble man receiving this unexpected attention and appreciation. Something about the way the grandson spoke to his granddad – at a distance – and the thought and care that he had put into the event touched me deeply and made me happy, and it also made me aware of my own sadness and grief arising from the situation we are finding ourselves in.
Health struggles, Covid-19 or not
I have been ill for 6 weeks at the time of writing (15 weeks when published), slowly recovering with a lingering cough, chest congestion and lungs that do not work the way they used to. I officially don’t know if I have had Covid-19, but something tells me that I have, and in any case, this illness has been like nothing I have experienced before. I wasn’t ill enough to be admitted into hospital, but was sent home instead, and on my own I’ve managed sensations of burning and pressure on the chest, breathing difficulties, coughing and exhaustion. These symptoms come and go randomly, coming back just as I think I am getting better, all while parenting my two children, mostly from my bed (thank God, they’re no longer toddlers!). I have had enough to eat, I have an ex who has been an incredible help, who lives next door and has cooked meals, and taken the girls for walks, and also listened to my desperation. I know that some people are far worse off than me, but nevertheless it has felt like a struggle.
Heartbreak after long period of grief and depression
I had just come out of a long period of grief and depression at the point that Covid-19 and lockdown became part of our reality. This was going to be the year where I found myself emerging in the world again, ready to take on new projects and steering my life in a direction that suited me, and BAM! Go back to bed and reflect on your life!
I’m not the only one, who finds themself in a situation like this. And as I was watching the video of the granddad turning 100, I suddenly really felt the heartbreak that this new reality has put me in. It’s not really about the weeks that have just gone by, but about the uncertainty we are facing, the lack of freedom, which has an unknown length, the fear that we’re feeling, the lack of meaning and the collective sorrow from the lives that have been lost already, and the lives that will be lost throughout the weeks and months that are coming.
How do we hold space for our grief, while also moving forward with our lives, within the circumstances presented to us?
Grief is not a competition
Grief can be related to many things. The loss of a dear one, loss of lifestyle, loss of freedom, loss of certainty. In the circumstances we’re finding ourselves in, I find it particularly relevant to remember that our own grief is not something we can compare to other’s. I feel that it’s important that we allow ourselves to hold space for whatever grief we’re going through. It’s so easy to say “they have it worse than me”, or “your loss is not as big as mine”, but we never know which previous losses are activated by this new situation we’re finding ourselves in. Grief takes time and it is hard to manage when feeling challenged, especially now.
Gentleness and quality of life
Being gentle with ourselves, and looking after our own Baseline is paramount to how we move through the stress of this situation. Many of us have others depending on us, and that can be especially difficult because grieving is extra challenging to manage when we are also looking after others.
So, how can we create quality of life in a situation like this? One of the most important things I have learned from Simone is that change cannot happen without awareness, and awareness can only be created when we are not stressed. So first things first. Whatever little step we can take to bring our heart rate down, and our attention back to ourselves, count. Low key self care is of essence at the best of times, but especially now.
Slowly does it
Grief takes time, and by accepting and knowing this, we can be patient with ourselves, as we process our feelings and hold space for our loved ones. Through this, we might find that the slowing down of life, and taking the space to be with ourselves, might bring a new quality to the important relationships in our lives. Slowly – one step at a time.
© Tine Landy 2020
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