Grief in the time of Coronavirus

unnamed (1)My grandad died. Currently the world is closed, people bought all the toilet roll, it’s the one time in the UK the sun came out for days on end, and, worst of all, Nando’s is shut. Absolutely nothing seems normal, and here I am figuring out grief .

So, I should start by telling you a few things about him right? He was a family man, wisest person I ever met and knew seemingly the whole Bible and the history of the West Indies Cricket Team off by heart! He lived a great life and spent the last few years mostly housebound except for hospital trips, but surrounded by his army of daughters and granddaughters. The kind of Grandad who keeps telling you “it’s ok, never mind, you’ll get married someday” even though you’ve never once complained about not being married. A decent, funny and all-round good guy, got the picture? 

Grief is one of those few pain points in life we can all relate to, it’s an analogy I often use in my workshops on Diversity & Inclusion to separate the universal pain of grief from the individual experiences of oppression. Basically, we can all be sad, we can all lose something we love. But often, reading articles (A* English Literature A Level out here!) what pulls us through grief is the ability to have face-to-face support & taking care of yourself physically. Currently, the world has changed, I repeat, Nando’s is closed, but also, we are not supposed to be face-to-face with anyone but those we live with if we truly want to join the ranks of the Avengers & save the world. Gyms are shut and realistically, we are only meant to be out for a very limited amount of time per day, Amazon has sold out of weights and we all know home workouts just aren’t the same when the sofa is staring at you, begging you to come have a nap. Now, I can speak for my area where it seems as if absolutely no-one is following these measures, but say we do? What does grief look like in isolation?

Well... it’s a fairly lonely and individual experience, let’s be real, crying is never in anyones list of things to do for fun, but crying alone really isn’t it! I’m one of those people who would say that family is important to me, and, believe it or not I LIKE spending time with them (I know right?!) This death in the time of Corona has highlighted this more than ever. The fact I  broke the rules and went to see some of those I love being just one example. To be social distancing, afraid to hug those close to you for fear of what you may inadvertently pass on, particularly when people are grieving, that’s tough. Getting sent What’sapp pictures to share the memories that only exist in photo albums covered in dust is lovely, yet there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel authentic.

In a world on a fast-track to digitalising everything and creating virtual experiences for the strangest of activities, there is something truly inhuman about virtually experiencing grief. Put it this way, having a Zoom call with family who don’t understand what Zoom is, have an internet connection straight outta the 90s AND when you finally get through are constantly shouting “Hello? Hello? CAN YOU HEAR ME?!” at a screen, for me, doesn’t replicate sitting in a house playing dominoes, having some rum and sharing memories. God I need some Rum. For one, random strangers can’t turn up and claim they met you when you were only “this high” but also, it’s just not the same really is it?

As I’m writing this, today is the day of his funeral and actually today’s the day it started raining again. Whilst, I do feel like this is the Britain I know, and maybe things are returning to normal, it does feel like the weather itself is mourning for me (pathetic fallacy and that, I told you, English literature). However; whilst I’m outside on the way to work, I’m not at the funeral due to social distancing measures and guidance around the numbers of people allowed at a gathering. Whilst I understand why, I can’t help but feel like something is missing. The inability to say goodbye. The inability to hug those you love in a time of grieving. The inability to slam a domino down on the living room table and have all the uncles wonder how you learnt to win at both ends! There’s a gap there in not having that shared physical space to process your grief.

It’s peculiar how in death you recognise more about a person than you ever did in life right? I guess that’s in part because we never really sit for moments at a time actively focusssing memories of our time with friends or family but rather we just let those moments accumulate and pass us by. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is to reflect on what were the good qualities about my grandad, personally I’ve never once sat and tried to do this for anyone I have around me who is alive! Maybe there’s a life-lesson in there somewhere?

I guess all of this is to say, that as much as social distancing tears us apart, there’s something about grief that draws us together and makes us want to come closer to one another. We all share the emotions of pain and sadness and grieving alone for me has been a lesson. At a time in history where we are more connected but yet people report more loneliness than ever, I do hope this lockdown brings humanity closer, and more importantly, that Nando’s opens again.

So, I’ve been thinking… for who might grieving always be hard? Who can’t be there for their families when events like this happen anyway? Who doesn’t have access to What’sapp pictures of their loved ones? Perhaps if I’ve learnt anything in this, it’s to be empathetic and to not take for granted my proximity to having love around me. My grandad told me to aim high, and then aim higher, and, well, grandad my aim of this was just to share that I miss you, and I’m sad I can’t be there today. For me, to love someone and be loved is for me one of the highest achievements we can have in this life and let’s hope I can see you again sometime. Grief in the time of Coronavirus sure is a whole new social-experiment and it’s one I’m ready to get out of, anyway hope you’re okay up there, I’m off to find some rum.

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