Have you noticed how no one knows what to say right now?
Let me clarify that… No one knows what to say but they don’t all realize it. So, they’re spending lots of time telling you over and over again what you should be doing right now.
Anyone else totally over it?
Let’s be completely honest about this: no one person knows what to do right now. No one person knows you and how you are feeling better than you. And no one person has the right to tell you how you should or should not be handing this completely unprecedented event.
This is a deeply personal experience we are all living out. It’s scary, it’s unknown, it can feel hopeless, and it’s incredibly isolating—both physically and emotionally.
That’s what this is. We are all in mourning. We’re mourning the loss of life as we knew it and we have no idea what will happen next. Just one month ago everything was different. We had no practical preparation for how everything was about to change. Since then we’ve lost our physical freedom, we’ve lost peace of mind, we’ve lost jobs and income, we’ve lost weddings, graduations and vacations, we’ve lost the chance to start families through IVF cycles, and some of us have actually lost loved ones.
When you lose something that really mattered you must grieve. It’s allowed. It’s necessary. And losing the way of life you knew and loved is a huge loss. Monumental. The biggest loss many of us have ever encountered.
So, here comes the grief. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last nine months since losing both my father in law and my father, it’s that grief is intensely personal. Even when two people have lost the same thing, they will still feel it in their own way. And that is okay. That is what it is to be human.
We are all grieving the same things and our own things right now. And not a single one of us can tell anyone else how they should feel, what they should be doing, or when they should be over it and moving on.
Less than two months after my dad died someone asked me how I was doing and if my dad’s death was still something I was dealing with. Basically saying, it’s been several weeks so you’re cool now, right? This person meant no harm and was trying to be kind but committed the cardinal sin of believing grief has a shelf life. It does not.
So, while we move into a third week of self-isolation, quarantine, social distancing, or sheltering in place know that the grief is still there. That’s its way. And often it builds as time goes on. Grief is that unwelcome houseguest you said could crash on your couch for a few nights and then two months later has taken over your entire apartment. In many ways, grief gets worse before it gets better. But unlike that houseguest who you’ll eventually kick out or strangle to death, grief never entirely goes away.
And that’s okay. We each have to accept and acknowledge that what we are feeling is normal.
Contrary to what everyone is saying on social media right now, you do not have to turn this into the most productive time of your life. You don’t have to do every at-home workout that is being offered up. You don’t have to become the best home-schooling parent that ever existed. You don’t have to start a new business or make your current one unbelievably successful. And you don’t have to write the next great American novel.
You just have to survive.
Right now, that is the only thing that matters, especially when the grief is so raw and relentless. You just need to get through. This may be the time when simply getting out of bed can be considered productive. Or putting food on the table for your family at dinner—even if it’s macaroni and cheese from a box. In fact, especially if it’s mac and cheese from a box. It’s food and it will do.
The people who are telling you what to do and how to capitalize on this time are also freaking out. Many are entrepreneurs who need to keep selling you on something in order for their own business to stay afloat. They send messages of positive thinking, mind over matter, and how the hustle should be your new best friend. But their messages don’t work for everyone, and if you’re in that camp (like me) you are under no obligation to follow their advice or judge yourself for not wanting to right now.
But they are right about one thing: THIS IS YOUR TIME. But only you get to decide how to spend it.
Grief is personal and messy and complicated. But it’s also human. We are all grieving right now and we’re all dealing with it on our own timelines and in our own ways.
There is no one-size-fits-all correct thing to say right now. So, I’ll settle for this: whatever you are feeling is okay, whatever you are feeling is normal, and you are stronger than you think.
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