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The individual and collective loss and grief, small and large, in this pandemic, are going to be carried as a burden by humanity for a long, long time. We need to work with that.
We live in a complex world; our losses are complex too. The tsunami of COVID-19 as it has been lashing out, has taken a toll in more ways than one.
The raging scenes on hospital floors, fitful coughs behind the doors of our own homes and lost jobs. For some with more privilege: online work, online school, online communities and scores of newsfeeds. The landscape of loss and grief is stretched out far into the horizon, one we will be holding space for, for years to come.
Loss refers to feelings of being deprived of something valued, such as a person, a skill, circumstance or an object.
May I invite you to stay with that definition? Pause to really look at what you are feeling deprived of right now? Many of us may feel deprived of touch, of sunlight, of food that feels nourishing, of sleep, of rest, of friendships where your people are physically by your side.
What are the different ways in which we are experiencing loss?
Loss comes in so many shades and forms. Scrolling from feed to feed and reading about our crumbling healthcare system, failure of the government, the pain of those we know and don’t is depravation of good governance, care and support. It’s also loss of hope, intrusion of fear and anxiety.
There is another kind of loss we often deny, the loss of necessary safety (and escape). Escape from violence in home situations.
A lot of queer folk have had to return home because of harsh situations in their professional lives and that has led to erasure, violence and homophobia in their own homes.
Women experience increased domestic violence because of being home with all working members at home.
The intersectional violence of those marginalized is shocking, and so are their accrued losses and grief.
The loss of being able to travel, of being able to get away from pain by meeting a community, watching movies and more are subtle but steady sorts of losses many of us are grieving.
Then of course the anxiety of impending contraction of the virus, the fear of not finding on timely care, fearing the death of our loved ones, our own gasping breaths and aching bodies. Not to mention further, the loss of our loved ones, so many of us have lost those that we love.
If this doesn’t feel apocalyptic to you, you are also experiencing a stage of loss called denial!
Grief is a natural response to loss.
The term grief is used to describe reactions and feelings that a person may experience after losing someone or something that is of importance to them. Our reactions of grief can be physical, psychological, social and emotional. Any and all reactions are natural.
Our culture’s expectations stymie our responses to grief. The stipulation of how long, what manner, who grieves and so forth are stories that we need to challenge.
The individual and collective grief of the losses, small and large, in this pandemic, are going to be carried as a burden by humanity for a long, long time. Even if your losses are minimal, you’re still going to feel it; we all are just human.
A pandemic proportion of grief is going to see itself in many ways for years to come and remember, that is a natural response.
This pandemic and its impact runs in our bones. By that I mean, the stress, the anxiety, the losses we have already experienced collectively and as individuals is present in our bodies. It’s present in the aches in our shoulders, the pain in our hips, our knuckles and our jaws.
Stress manifests in the body. Your exhaustion, your lack of motivation, the dreadful thoughts and the sleepless nights, the tears or even the lack thereof, please know that a large part of it is the result of loss.
We as a nation are grieving small to colossal changes and losses that the pandemic has incited, and systems have exaggerated. What can we do as a collective then?
Make space for your community to take turns to rest. See how you and your family, or you and your flatmates, or you at your workplace can initiate ways in which rest is encouraged.
Rest doesn’t necessarily have to look like sleep. Rest can look at yoga, running or gentle massages you give, to the pain parts of your body. Rest can look like turning off social media-scrolling for some parts of the day, rest can look like journaling, or a bath. Rest is an opportunity to acknowledge that your body has accumulated so much loss and grief, and the pain of the world. Rest is an opportunity to give your body a small break from carrying it all. Just for a bit.
Our culture thrives on correcting one another through shaming. But in a nation where so much is not going right, I find it helpful to take on a compassionate stance towards myself, those that are standing by me and supporting me.
Within your own communities of support find ways to hold one another with care, loving and necessary conversations. For us to make possible a culture that is non-blaming and non-shaming, we need to allow for truths to be seen and people to be supported for their truths.
Men in their homes need to look at how the women in their homes are supported and what else they can do. Parents need to open their hearts to listening to the needs of their children, partners need to hold space for one another, and communities of friends need to open their hearts for conversations and support.
Most of all, I believe that we are already doing the very best we can, given the kind of world we live in today. Relief is not here yet, but we can find relief in small pockets of kindness that is already present in this aching burning world.
In grieving, we are honouring the fragility and preciousness of life.
Image source: a still from the film Pagglait
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Aarathi Selvan is a clinical psychologist, Mindfulness guide and a Contemplative artist. Trained in the
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