As many of us are close to completing our first month under increased safety restrictions, isolation, and stress, I’ve seen so many people striving for positivity and encouragement. It’s made me so proud to see people focusing on the good being done, lifting each other up, and keeping hope alive for themselves and others. Working to see joy and positivity in the face of an unprecedented crisis like this one has such value. But it’s not the full story.
It’s important not to let our efforts to stay positive rob us of valid emotions that are less easy to process. The hard truth is that all of us have lost something during this time. We’ve lost freedom, flexibility, routines, time with each other, and many of us have lost jobs and even loved ones. As much as it might be easier to push through and not give ourselves time to reflect, to put off processing our emotions until we’re out of crisis or try to channel all of our energy into being productive, we owe it to ourselves to take a moment and honor this loss.
Because it is a loss.
All of us have had our lives altered, in some ways forever, by this pandemic. There’s no use trying to avoid it: we’re all mourning something right now. This is one of the most devastating times our country has faced as a whole as well as one of the hardest for most of us personally. This is pain, this is trauma. We’ve said goodbye to so many facets of our former lives.
I was looking at old photos today and came across a snapshot of a girls’ night out with me and my friends. All of us looked so happy, and it’s odd to think that we took something so simple for granted. It can be hard to think about how long it will be before I’m able to do normal things like go out with my friends again, before I’m able to watch a baseball game or get my nails done or see a movie on a rainy day. It might seem like I’m being intentionally somber for no purpose, or that I’m wasting time and energy being upset about things that are unimportant and losses that we will get back someday. It’s easy to shame ourselves for being sad about the “small” things when there’s so much sickness and death around us, but those small things that make up our lives are important and it is significant that we have lost them. Don’t shame yourself out of acknowledging real pain.
The only way we can start building a vision for the future is by letting go of that which came before. When we’ve enabled ourselves to say goodbye to things we’ve lost it allows us to place more hope in the future. We know that someday things will be better than this but that doesn’t stop things from being hard now. If you’re mourning right now just know I am right there beside you, working on laying my old life to rest so my new life can have a chance to begin. It can be uncomfortable to admit it but some parts of this life hold great sadness. We can’t avoid it and we can’t change it. We can only be present in it and truly let ourselves experience the pain, hold ourselves in it, and move through it.
Have you ever felt so tired or weary that you started to cry, and then found yourself feeling better afterwards? It’s not natural for us to try and exist outside of the natural cycles of emotion, burying ourselves in distractions so we never have to experience that fallout. It’s scary to open ourselves up to negative feelings, but it’s the only way we can then access joy and hope in a true, meaningful way as well.
I cried yesterday. I’ll probably cry tomorrow. I don’t know how many times I’ll cry before we are all able to see each other again, but I know that crying now, being present with myself at this time of deep loss, means that someday I’ll be able to experience happiness and peace just as deep and true. I’m asking you to hold onto the things that are still good right now, to talk to your loved ones and create things that matter to you and care for yourself and daydream for the future, but give yourself space for the sadness as well because it is just as important.
We are all in this together, and we will get through this together.