August 2, 2020
The stages of pandemic grief
THE STAGES OF PANDEMIC GRIEF
In the stages of pandemic grief, I went from anger to fiction without stopping at denial.
Or so I glibly remarked on a recent Instagram post. A friend asked me to expand upon this remark.
So let me attempt to shine some light on the daylight darkness we are all living in.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (pardon the lack of umlaut- I have no idea how to pull that up on this platform) postulates the five stages of grief as being a series of emotions that one goes through in experiencing grief:
Why only five stages is the first question? If a man wrote this, there would be at least 10. The Top Ten stages of Grief. So what would the other five stages be?
1. What the fuck? Denial
2. I am so pissed off!!!! Anger
3. I will trade you this goat for 3 chickens or a bucket. Bargaining
4. Why a goat? Why a goat? What? All I get is a fucking goat? Depression
5. Ok. I get it. A goat. Whatever, might as well be a goat. Acceptance
6. Magical Thinking-Fiction vs. Non-Fiction. Expectations vs Reality.
7. Science Fiction- Alien Goat sucks souls for breakfast ( on a planet, somewhere, who cares)
8. Secondary Depression. I mean, I bet you can't just have one. More like wild mood swings with brief moments of clarity.
9. Science. The science of why- Why? I mean Why??? For fuck sake WHY!!!!? (contrast with those who do not believe in science- FREEDOM, GUNS, WHITE GOD, KITTENS, KAREN'S, SUPPORT THE TROOPS, TRUMP 2020, CHURCHES SHOULDN'T PAY TAXES, WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR A MASK, WHY CAN'T I EAT FRIED CHICKEN, BACON AND PEANUT BUTTER IN WHATEVER ORDER I CHOOSE EVERY DAY)
10. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. What? Again? Another loss? Is anybody keeping score here? Goats, anyone?
So back to the initial remark. Pandemic times are so upside down and topsy turvy that we can't even grieve in the right order. We can't grieve what we are losing, because we are still in the process of losing it. Who has time to stop and count, take stock, reflect? Everything is so random. Former pillars of strength are weeping in a corner. Everything must be sanitized, torn down, defunded. The only way out is through it. The revolution is not being reported on. The situation is not reflected in the news we are fed. Queue up, download, ZOOM ZOOM.
Why look what we stepped in here? It is firmly entrenched in every groove of our shoes, every strand of our hairs, every thought, every day, 24/7, non-stop.
I am writing this on a computer that my daughter gave me. I guess I gave it to her first, but she gave it back. My IT guy at work had to set it up twice, because I couldn't remember the password I used in the early months of the pandemic.
So far in the writing of this rant, I have apparently been subject to two virus attempts, which some program successfully thwarted. It is almost as if someone was reading my mind. Or my mail. Or scanning my iris, drawing my blood, drawing me a bath, handing me the razor and saying enjoy the water! The water is warm. The water invites. The water is always waiting and watching.
So back to the initial remark. The reason I glibly tossed it off was that I could not bring myself to pour my heart out, and go into more detail.
In the early days of the pandemic, I had some very dark thoughts. I was working through the lockdown, going to work every day, taking all the risks we thought we were taking, while my wife and daughter were in lockdown in the 2 bedroom apartment with the dog. 8 legs waiting for me to come home. Waiting for me to come home and possibly bring the virus back with me, infecting them and as a result becoming responsible for their life or death. Everyday, taking off my shoes, leaving them outside the door, taking off my clothes, showering, so much soap, so much lather, so much rinsing and repetition.
They had each other. I felt as if I needed to ask permission to come aboard, everyday, in my own house. And I did. I did need to ask, and I did ask, and I came in and hopefully did not bring this virus with me.
And there were days when I would feel I was very hot, and I had a cough or sneeze ( that may well and most likely was allergies), and I would try to sleep, thinking I fucking am responsible here, because I am out there, and they are in here.
The daily routines continued, with new rules and alterations. We had to wash all the food before putting it into the fridge or cupboards, even the cans, bottles and packages. Throw out the plastic bags. Fuck the environment, this was an invisible enemy that could kill us.
As a 62 year old man who had a heart attack at 49, I knew I was dead meat if I caught this. After about two weeks, I remember one night when my dark thoughts took hold, and ........Well, I don't have to spell it out, do I? I am no stranger to those kind of thoughts. When you live with what they call depression, not just stage 4 and 8 of the above lists, you get used to having those thoughts.
That is why we medicate, either prescribed or non-prescribed. That is why we should probably meditate. One day, I will get around to that.
That night was about two weeks into what is now about 24 weeks, and seemingly there is no end in sight.
In a pandemic, we grieve for the lives we thought we had. We grieve for the plans that have been changed. The trips we can no longer take. The jobs we no longer have. The jobs we are stuck in. The songs no one will hear. The hugs we want to give. The smell of the crowd.
Normal meet The New Normal. Old injustice meet the New injustice. Old racism and sexism meet the New racism and sexism.
Life is a process. You breathe in. You breathe out. You break in. You break out. You cry in a corner. You scream in the middle of the night. You shout out against the shuttering, the shuddering, the smouldering fire that is still burning in the pit of your stomach.
So this is shout out to all the shut-ins, all the little people, all the beautiful people, even...even all the ugly people who are rotting inside with their fictions and ugly fake truths. This is a shout out to the users, abusers, losers.
This is a shout to the wanted and the unwanted. The born and the mercifully unborn. The people whom I love and adore and treasure, who are so very dear to me, and for without them,
life would be so very much less than it is now.
All we can do to survive is to love, and be kind, and try to make all of our lives better, and the lives of others better.
Because, I truly believe, that is why we are here.
To bring a little light into the darkness.