“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” —C.S.Lewis
“Normality is a paved road; it is comfortable to walk but no flowers grow.” —Vincent Van Gogh
That weird feeling you have right about now. It could be grief. The bodily sensation of spinning and disorientation, the ground feeling a bit shaky under your feet. The sleep-disturbed nights. The knot in your stomach. The lack of motivation. It could all be grief.
Yesterday, after I thanked the cashier at Trader Joe’s for working during this season of CoVid-19, I asked her how she was doing. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Thanks for asking. I am exhausted. And it comes in waves. Other than that, I am pretty good.” I nodded and smiled. “It might just be grief,” I said. Then her eyes got wet. “Oh. Yes. That’s a possibility.” I nodded and picked up my bags. “You’re not alone,” I said. “I am grieving, too. We’re all grieving. Peace to you.”
Grief is the sense of loss we feel when something we value is gone. It can be something tangible, like a person, pet, or object. It might be losing an activity we enjoy like playing sports, attending church, or shopping and eating out. Intangibles, like a sense of certainty or wellbeing, freedom to move around as we wish, daily routines, relationships we normally count on, even something we haven’t yet been able to name can be grieved. And it all leaves us with this weird, disoriented sensation.
Grief is the sense of loss we feel when something we value is gone.
A couple of weeks ago, I started waking up weepy. That is one of my body’s signals that I am grieving. It is familiar. When my husband and I were separated many years ago, I woke up crying. When one of my best friend’s died, I woke up crying for a few weeks. After my mother’s and father’s deaths, I noticed, upon awakening, that I had been crying in the night, salty residue crusted on my lashes. Perhaps it is in sleep that all my defenses and distractions are reduced enough that my soul can feel what it needs to feel. And right now, what my soul is feeling is grief. I am feeling the present grief and remembering past grief all at once it seems.
You Are Not Alone
Past grief is surfacing for many. Last night my daughter sent a picture of her cat, Lana, staring out from inside her carrier. Maria managed to escape NYC and head to a safer area. She had been really anxious about transporting Lana to a strange location, and then maybe having to transport her again. She loves this cat and was wanting to do what was best for her.
My husband got choked up when I showed him the picture. When I asked about the tears, he said he was remembering how he could not get home in time for the euthanizing of our former cat, Precious. He wanted to be there, and it just could not wait another day. He led with that story. THEN, he shared a story I have never heard. (We have been married for 40 years!) His childhood dog strangled himself to death on the wire lead he was on in their backyard. When Nick went out to feed him one morning, Chooch was dead. Nick was 12 or 13 when this happened. The vision and the memory came flooding back. Wow. Just wow.
It’s All Of Us
We are all grieving, and we are all being triggered. Grief is kind of like a chain—links all hooked together. When one comes up, the others often come up as well. Some are more healed and resolved than others. Some are still sore to the touch. Ouch. We weren’t quite prepared to feel that again. Rhea has a saying, “Grief gloms onto grief.” In my office, clients are recounting past traumas and griefs before they even realize they are doing it. “This reminds me of when…..” and the past trauma is retold.
We are all grieving, and we are all being triggered.
Personally, I am concerned about the complicated grief of people who are going through major life transitions during this time. End of life and beginning of life rituals that normally bring people together to hug, hold, kiss, and physically surround each other are now nothing like we ever imagined. Prayers are raised in the parking lots of hospitals for dying family members. Priests are doing last rites over the phone. Only the closest of family members attend funerals, or it is postponed indefinitely. Widows— wanting the physical presence of others are at home— with food being dropped off on the stoop without a hug or touch.
At the other end of life, couple’s pregnant with a baby are completely quarantined to ward off the threat of this virus. Partners will not be allowed in the delivery area while new mothers are laboring alone. Parents live scared for the lives of their new babies, unable to allow even grandparents over to welcome the newest member. This grief is profound. When the veil between heaven and earth thins, and we are fragile, scared, and vulnerable, most people don’t want to be alone. And yet, for now and for many, it is what is. The grief will be prolonged and profound.
When the veil between heaven and earth thins, and we are fragile, scared, and vulnerable, most people don’t want to be alone.
I am also acutely aware of my friends who are single, and community members who are homebound. No matter how comfortable one is in the singleness, being “alone” is not the same thing as being single. Most of us are not practicing social distancing in our homes. Families snuggle up with the kids, our partners, our pets, and sometimes even our aging parents. Some play games, cook, exercise, and make music together. We still have interaction and touch. This may not be so with someone living as a single these days. The void of human touch and in-person interaction is enough to make the grief extreme.
I highly recommend doing something creative with your weird, grief-y feelings. Write, paint, dance, garden, cook, sing, design, journal….anything to get more of the brain working! And, Friends, please be kind to each other. You don’t have to understand why another person is struggling. Just be there for them. None of us understands what this is doing to us yet.
The Way of Grief
However you are grieving, whatever you are grieving, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel it. Try and name it. Do something creative to give it expression and shape. AND REMEMBER, grief is always organic. It is not linear, as if someday you will finally be done with it and won’t have to feel it anymore. No. Grief is chaotic. It winds its way wherever it will, and we never know how or when it will show up.
Grief is chaotic. It winds its way wherever it will, and we never know how or when it will show up.
We are all learning new ways of living right now, and new means we aren’t going to be good at it. And so, as we grieve, we will limp along together, texting and talking, walking and wandering, zooming and praying, and trusting that in the end, we will figure out what we need. We will grieve, our own messy way of grieving, and then, when we are least expecting it, we will grieve again.
Remember, this moment in time is really going to be messy. As for the grief, feel it, name it, claim it, and tame it. We are in this together, and that, my Friends, is marvelous.
Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com
You can email Amy at [email protected]