Grief is hard to talk about, and hard to admit to. It’s a feeling often riddled with shame and talked about in whispers. It brings with it a sense of confusion—an inability to communicate the depths or reasons for it. Grief is perplexing, and we often only talk about it in very specific situations: You only grieve when someone dies.
But over these past few weeks, grief is a sentiment I’ve heard communicated from a lot of people. Myself included, it seems many of us are having a hard time describing our current feelings. We’re all experiencing some type of loss during this pandemic, with hours and days, and maybe even weeks, being lanced with waves of grief. Grief. How do we accommodate for grief outside of physical loss? How does one grieve when perhaps no one has died?
Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.
The only way I know how to deal with complicated feelings, is to talk about them openly—to shed light on what we keep hidden, to ensure the messy bits of being human are seen and heard. Grief is uncomfortable, unpredictable and exhausting. Grief is normal and natural. Grief does not make you weak or less than. Grief is an emotional response to loss. And it’s okay to be sad over what we’ve lost, both individually and collectively.
I asked three of our writers if they could share what they’re currently grieving, and I’d love to know your answers too. Comment down below.
What have you lost during this pandemic? No matter how small, what makes you sad, or angry, or [insert emotion] about what you’ve lost? What are you currently grieving?
I have been grieving my imagined future, that inner story in my mind always running a little film projector of what lies ahead. I was about to leave for NYC to begin a (potential) new life, but canceled my trip on March 10th due to mounting concern about COVID-19. NY was where I was going to go to grieve 16 years of living in Los Angeles, the end of a career and a relationship. I was going there precisely because I wanted to be immersed in its movements, to be inspired by its energy. Now I feel somewhat formless; there is no particular place to direct my energies for the future. It is too uncertain. Some mornings I’ve been angry and spiteful, only to resolve into acceptance. Other days my stomach churns from stress or anxiety, while other times I am shockingly calm about the ambiguous road the future brings. My greatest comfort comes when I ground myself—through meditation, breathing, or yoga—into my body; when I remember that I am in my body, right here, right now. The moment I am living in, now, is where my energies deserve the greatest attention. I have lost the idea of one life, perhaps, so that I could build another I may have never imagined.
Staying home during COVID-19 has brought up a lot of time for reflection. I usually live so fast, I don’t have a lot of time to digest and reflect before moving onto the next phase. With this, the grief of my father and uncle passing nearly eight years ago has been surfacing again. Reading about how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black Americans brings up so much—it makes me think about how painful it was to lose my dad and my uncle, how I felt like a piece of not only our family history, but our imprint on Black history, was lost in a way. I’m so tired of the effects of systemic racism reverberating, and how the black community is grieving. That’s one of the complexities of a collective trauma like a pandemic—it can trigger the individual traumas everywhere. I’ve been sleeping more than ever, and having extremely vivid dreams. I imagine my subconscious is working out things I had passed over during busy times in my life. I’ve been using a meditation app called Liberate, which has a whole section of ancestral meditations designed for Black folks, inviting us to consciously connect with loved ones on the other side. I’ve been focusing on imagining the future and my individual responsibility. Though I don’t subscribe to any one faith, I have been ruminating on the biblical phrase, “Faith without works is dead.” I apply this phrase quite literally by making conscious contact with my passed loved ones, helping relieve some of the immediate effects of grief. But there is more work to be done. In this, I reflect on the following: How can I be a good ancestor? What decisions can I make in my life that contribute to the livelihood of Black folks? How am I being a good neighbor to those in my immediate life? This keeps me grounded in the here and now, rather than solely reliving painful memories.
I didn’t realize what I was feeling was grief until it became a national conversation. Personally, I haven’t lost anything detrimental—my family still has their health and I still have mine. I have a roof over my head and access to food. I lost my job and a large slew of clients, but (luckily), I can make low-budget work for a while, and California unemployment is pretty speedy. I’m more so grieving a sense of opportunity. As a person in her late 20s who has dipped her toes into a few different careers, I leaned on the idea that I’d eventually “figure it out,” as everyone else seemed to. But here I am, 6 months from turning 30, staring at our declining economy and feeling a bit lost. I wanted to use 2020 to take strides in my career, invest in my passions, and start saving to buy a house. I wanted to enter 30 with an “anything is possible” attitude. But recent events have colored that perspective. Am I jaded now? I hate to think so, but yeah, maybe that’s what this is. In any case, quarantine feels like it’s aged me. Perhaps it’s aged all of us, as we grapple with the fragility of life and the American economy. I can’t classify this as “good” or “bad,” and I think doing so misses the point. It just is. Finding presence in the now, and acceptance, is the best I can do right now, and that’s okay.