This is a letter to all of the people who have lost someone, not even just those in the past year, but all those before that. I write this as someone who has as well and who has had to process that grief, loss, but also the spontaneous nature of it. One moment my loved person is here, smiling at me, and the next, they are no longer here. It is hard. Because of COVID-19, all of those who lost one of the 3 million people who have died are a part of this.
I’m going to preface this by saying, my mother didn’t pass from COVID, but rather after a long fight with breast cancer, but she was in the ICU and on a ventilator in a similar manner. To be honest, she never should have died, but she was tired and it was time. The past year especially has been so hard on all of us and we have all lost so much.
As a society, but also as individuals, it’s not easy to deal with death. Most of the time, we all think we are either super prepared, or not prepared at all. I was unprepared to lose my father, yet strangely emotionally prepared for my mother’s death. Mostly because his was so sudden, and while her’s was as well, I was able to be there in-person, reassure her that we would all be fine, and say my goodbyes.
Dealing with death is this perpetual state that the 7 Stages of Grief truly never get right. It’s not linear, there will be moments when you feel great. But then out of nowhere, the entire thing goes up in flames before your face. It’s really, really hard to figure out how to move forward when you never know when it’ll come up. It’s like living with a constant hesitancy to do anything, never knowing what might open the wounds.
Dealing with death should never be lonely, but it often is. Not because people aren’t trying to be there, but because people never truly know what you’re going through. Everyone’s situation is so different. So no matter how hard we might try to empathize, it is never entirely possible. Everyone’s set of things that changes after loss is different. Some had parents with long lives, who got to see everything. Some are like me and my parents won’t meet my partner’s family, nor see me go off to grad school.
One of the things about COVID-19 that is the most impactful is that it made grieving public. It made loss public. I don’t know how many times in the last year I’ve opened Twitter or Facebook and I see loss. Loss is public and everywhere we look, so no one can escape seeing how much we have lost. Each person’s grieving is now for the world to see, as smaller funerals due to the virus take precedence, having to livestream them.
We have all lost so much. Privacy. The ability to grieve in peace or the ability to go unreminded of the loss. The ability to not compare yourself to others in your grief. Trying to maintain appearances in order to not upset others. It will be interesting to see what happens as we move out of this phase of our lives. What will be the impact of all we’ve lost? How will we change and relate to each other? Will we relearn how to grieve?
For anyone going through this as well, I just want you to know that it is okay that sometimes it doesn’t feel real. For me, it often doesn’t feel real that both of my parents are gone, especially my mom. Probably because it’s so new. I’m sure that’s probably not something that is lost on anyone who has been through this. Loss that is fresh is hard to define, but it’s also hard to process, especially in the scope of all that has happened.
I’m going to say it again, we have all lost so much. These physical losses are just the largest piece and sometimes the hardest. Those little pieces of the routines we’ve all known for years, just suddenly gone, and over time, it does improve, but not quickly. I’m still working through the first as I now work through the second, but I know that eventually, it will feel more and more real.
So to all of my people who have been through so much this year, I’m giving you a big hug. It’s okay that it hurts. We will get through this together, despite all we have lost.