If you’ve ever experienced the loss of a very close loved one, then you are no stranger to grief. And if you’ve lost more than one close loved one, you, like me, may be a guru of grief. It’s not a title any of us want, but sometimes it’s in the cards we are dealt.
My mom passed away 18 years ago: a devastating loss that left me lonely in a way I had never felt before. A few years later, I lost my maternal grandmother. And suddenly there I was: the mother of a 7 month old baby, 3 months pregnant with my second child, and no maternal figure to help me figure motherhood out. Thank goodness for girlfriends.
Fast forward 12 years to my next loss: my dearest girlfriend. My confidant. My partner in crime in raising our kids. Some days she was a better mother to mine than I was. And on other days, I repaid the favor. So losing her brought me right back to that loneliness that only grief can bring. Those were very hard days, many of which I felt lost, untethered, disconnected from the whole world. Surrounded by family and friends yet completely alone.
What I have learned as I have become a grief guru (self appointed title based on my vast personal experience with loss) is that grief is a very lonely road. If you are very lucky, you will have people who try to walk it beside you. They will love you and dry your tears and do their best to comfort you. But none of it will help. You will still feel completely alone because no one really knows what it is to be you having lost your person. They know what it is to be them having lost the same person, but they don’t know how it feels to you. You are alone in those feelings.
But grief during a global pandemic is different. You are not alone. Sure, there is no one who knows what it feels like to lose my dad to covid-19. There is no one who knows the deep sadness of having been by his side every day for the last nine months on his very precarious health journey. There is no one who knows what it feels like to spend 17 days by his bedside in a hospital out of state, away from anyone else who loves you, with him unconscious beside you as you desperately try to fill his mind with memories so he would come back. There is no one who knows what it feels like to medically transport him 300 miles to a better facility, hoping he’ll survive the trip. There is no one who truly knows how it feels after all that you’ve witnessed, to watch him learn to walk and talk and read and write and really be himself again. And no one knows how it feels to be with him through all of that, and to have him die alone because he had covid and isn’t allowed visitors.
But even though no one knows how it is to be me losing my dad, there are many others who are experiencing deep loss right now. There are so many who are left without parents. So many who have loved ones who died alone. So many who, not allowed to enter, stood outside the hospital in the rain crying and praying for peace for their loved one.
So while no one right beside me on this grief journey knows exactly how I feel, there are others out in the world who do. While I’m still walking my path alone, there are many others walking the same grief path alone in their corner of the world. We are alone together. And somehow that makes it not as lonely. That’s what makes grief in a global crisis different. Alone togetherness is much easier than alone alone-ness. Take it from someone who knows.