During the month of June, Women AdvaNCe will be sharing stories from the PRIDE community.
There is a saying – when you see a cardinal in your yard, it is a visitor from Heaven. I’ve seen so many cardinals in the past 3 months. Perhaps they are more abundant this year because so many people have died.
So much has happened since March. My pilgrimage to Jerusalem, scheduled for early March was canceled due to Covid-19. Then basically everything I had taken on since retiring came to a screeching halt either permanently canceled or indefinitely postponed.
Oh, grief, my friend…you see, I already have a love/hate relationship with April. I’ve asked a few friends to remove the month from the calendar – it appears to still be there. Over the past 7 years, I have experienced all kinds of grief – loss and this April was no exception.
April Fool’s Day is my birthday! Exciting, right? Another year around the world! It is also the date, seven years ago, that my partner entered palliative care for breast cancer that had taken over her body – the end of her life was near. April 2nd, this year, my mom was admitted to the hospital for non-covid related issues. Four days later, she was transferred to Hospice and died peacefully April 9th. April 11-14, 2013, my partner, her son, my two kids and I took our one and only family vacation at the beach. April 15th this year, I watched a 15 minute video of my mom’s graveside service in Texas complete with 10 people wearing masks, standing six feet apart and telling my dad – consider yourself hugged.
Two years ago on April 18th, I was given the choice to retire or be terminated from my 16-year job as ED of an AIDS service organization. I chose to retire and was escorted out of my office. Seven years ago on April 25th, my partner died peacefully at home. April 26th We had a graduation ceremony for her son on April 26th in our backyard (the hope was for her to see her son graduate). April 30th was visitation and May 1st was her memorial service.
May brought Mother’s Day weekend, when I traveled that Saturday, with conflicted emotions, to Raleigh to see my kids and granddaughters – was this a wise decision? While there, I received a message that my 26 year old cousin was admitted to the hospital because of a drug overdose, her third. She died the following Tuesday. Her funeral was May 15th with 10 people present.
Back to April, my emotions were all over the place in April – and in many respects – continue. You see, what your mind forgets – your body remembers – unease, restless, erratic sleep, no energy, lack of focus, tears, depression, anger – grief. I’ve learned to “respect” certain dates, honor the unease, the restlessness and some years are easier than others. I live through those moments, those days, sometimes with grace and others times not so much.
This year, my mom’s death added weight that was already there because of Covid-19. I chose not to travel to Texas, my home, to be with my dad – more grief. I have no idea when I’ll feel comfortable – safe – to go or when we can have a proper memorial service for her. My grief seems to be on hold – indefinitely. Until then, is her death truly real? It is and it isn’t.
They say you grieve because you have loved. Grief – comes from something, someone we’ve lost. It changes us, we move on, but differently. Typically, anticipatory grief means we are aware that someone is about to die – we can anticipate the upcoming loss. In our Covid-19 world, it takes on a different meaning. We have a loss of normalcy, a lost sense of connection, routine and certainty. And we have a feeling that there is more loss to come.
In my opinion, whether it is “regular grief” or anticipatory grief, we can experience fear, confusion, being on edge, angry, unable to focus, withdrawal, exhaustion, realize that what was normal isn’t anymore and likely will never be again. We crave, we demand normalcy or control, yet the only thing we have now is a life, a world, that is consistently inconsistent, certain uncertainty, surreal reality, an unnormal normal, and we fight for balance and grieve when we can’t find it – have it like it was before Covid-19, before the death of a loved one, before the loss of a job, the loss of self-image, the loss of normal. The stages of grief definitely apply – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – and we go through them again and again and again. And this is all normal.
Grief, anticipatory grief, Covid-19… the proverbial rug has been pulled out from under us, leaving us completely off balance, fearful, struggling to find something we can control – something we can hold onto. Since March, I find myself experiencing so many feelings in addition to grief. Fight, Flight or Freeze.
I fight for balance, a routine, some tidbit of “normal” just for a day; my flight (escape) takes me to working in my gardens, walking my dog, sitting outside watching and listening to the birds, or reading yet another spy mystery; my freeze – when I can’t seem to do anything -I honor. I do my best not to “should” on myself (i.e. guilt) and instead treat myself with grace and acceptance. And some days, I do all three – and that’s okay because right now, I trust this journey will carry me through all of my grief.
Julie Meyer has a Masters degree in Counseling. Through her varied careers, she has counseled many people dealing with, trying to come to terms with, some type of grief – death of a loved one, change in body image, loss of a job. Grief, no matter the case, is still grief and deserves to be honored and acknowledged.