Grief during a pandemic

Grief during a pandemic

Four weeks ago I received a phone call that floored me. My mum wasn’t alive any more. Four hours later the UK was put on lockdown. Surely this was a nightmare? The sweaty, heart pounding kind that you wake up from and still feel uneasy. I still haven’t woken up. I’d love nothing more to be sat bolt upright in bed, realising I’m late for work with a missed call from my mum that I’ll return at lunchtime.

Week one was a blur. I tried to carry on as normal for a little bit, it couldn’t be real. If I acted like I was going through any other day just maybe my world wouldn’t have just been ripped to pieces. In reality my head was full of a fog that wouldn’t allow sentences to form completely or any information to be retained. I could keep up the act of a functioning adult for about an hour or so then felt like I needed to sleep for a week. Sleep wouldn’t come. I had amazing friends by my side but the instant I was left alone I would cry.

Week two the fog lifted long enough for frustration and anger to show their faces. It’s not fair. The logical side of my brain knows there are thousands of people all over the world in much worse situations, knowing loved ones are dying and they can’t be there. I couldn’t say a final goodbye to my mum, but I also didn’t have any forewarning. We managed to have a burial, which is something I know a lot of people aren’t getting to do right now. I know I should be grateful for that but it’s hard to really grateful for anything when you’re stood at your 59 year old mothers graveside.

Week three was one or the other. Either loads of energy and motivation to try and get my life back to some kind of normality or zero energy followed by crying like a tired toddler. Quiet moments started feeling more like dull aches than the initial emotional sledgehammer. It feels like I’m having to relearn everything. Making a round of toast took 20 minutes, washing up was an exhausting feat just making sure all the pots don’t end up on the floor, and making any hot drink other than coffee was just far too complex.

Week four may have been the week denial started to fade. I had a moment of feeling she’s really gone. The world not making sense had allowed me to not really believe that I wouldn’t ever see her again. This reality hit when I spent my first night alone. I howl cried until I fell asleep. On a slightly more positive note, a walk and some fresh air allowed fractions of happy memories to start coming back. Her happy, smiling face that was always by my side was becoming a clear image in my head again.

My little grief bubble feels like it is finally starting to crack. As every well meaning person keeps pointing out, I’m in for a long process and the pain isn’t ever truly going to leave me but any little spark of feeling like myself is a blessing. Don’t get me wrong, there is still something that floors me on a daily basis and my memory is functioning more like a goldfish than a productive adult but any new sensations feel like progress. I am aware my grief bubble may in reality be more of a grief onion with all the layers to get through, but honestly that feels too big to get through.

One thing I have noticed and I don’t necessarily think it’s the worst thing in the world but I have been spending a lot of time playing those stupid games advertised on Instagram. They’ve actually been making me feel like my brain can function. Imagine the noise 90s computers made when they were trying to load the 20th game of pinball wizard. This might be the time they were created for. Passing time when the whole outside world is just too much to process.

Another thing I have noticed and really appreciated is how amazing the brain is in protecting you. For me it basically shut down after I heard the news and since then it has been slowly kicking back into action. The more it starts working again it doesn’t seem to be letting too much come back all at once. I’m trying to let myself feel whatever comes over me at a time. Sometimes these are good memories from many moons ago, sometimes they are verging on regrets. All of them hurt my heart but there is something strangely comforting about moving through all the new feelings. Maybe they won’t hurt as much the next time around.

The pandemic side of life hasn’t been something my brain has been able to grasp. I haven’t been leaving the house, but then I also haven’t felt physically able to. I haven’t been going to work, I don’t think I would know how to hold a camera right now. In terms of this, I do feel like I’m in a very privileged position. I can use this lockdown time to try and process what has happened to my tiny world without any added pressure of struggling to pay the bills or go into an unsafe work environment. If staying at home will help the country then I am very happy to be doing my civic duty.

Here’s to taking everything one day at a time and crossing all my fingers and toes that the day my creative brain kicks back in won’t be too far away.