Loss when nothing is normal.
Grieving during a global pandemic.
My birthday is just shy of a week away. In usual times my parents and my brother come up for the weekend. We all stay in a hotel in South Queensferry, we have nice drinks, a bit of an explore and a tasty meal. It had become quite the tradition. This year — to state the obvious — my birthday won’t be the same, not just because of lockdown rules, but also because last September my wonderful, gentle, hilarious little brother passed away.
In a way, it’s a relief that nothing is normal. Covid has put any type of birthday event on hold. Then I think to next year and I worry. By then surely things will be normal, a birthday pilgrimage may again be possible. The thought is overwhelming.
They say when you lose a loved one, the worst bit isn’t the day that they die, or even the first days after, but indeed the time after the funeral. Life resumes, the cards stop coming through the letter box, the flower deliveries slow and there you are left with this earth shattering pain and emptiness to face head on.
It doesn’t happen quite that way when you lose someone during a national lockdown. Life just isn’t normal, to a degree we are all stalled. You’re not expected to put on a brave face and start showing up at social events again, those events simply don’t exist. There is no expectation or awkward moments with acquaintances. And in many ways I’ve found that helpful.
But here’s the thing. When you lose someone during a lockdown you can’t huddle with those you hold closest and cry it out, you miss that step of the grieving process. When I think about that, it’s bizarre. My brother died in September, it’s March now and I haven’t been able to see some of my closest friends, never mind squeeze them.
One of my dearest friends lives in Manchester. It’s literally illegal for me to cross into England to go to her, or for her to come to me. She lost someone close recently too, and it pains me to keep away. But I do my best to stick to the rules. I’m acutely aware of the pain in loss and grief, I wouldn’t want to risk being the reason another family goes through that.
But then the question looms, what happens when I do see her for the first time? Will the feelings all flood in? Will I be back to expressing my grief in a way that I did in those first dark hours and days? Should we hug with a depth that says: ‘I’m here for you please lean on me’ ? Sure, it’s been a few months, but that desire to just hold her has been on pause that whole time too.
So, while we pine for an end to lockdown and we ask ‘when will things be normal again?’ In parallel I find myself asking ‘when will my grief end?’ I know it won’t, but part of me is scared that right now I’m on pause, and the end of lockdown will hit play.
If you’ve been affected by bereavement, support is available. Visit: https://www.cruse.org.uk/ (UK based)