Grief is the Mouth of a Deep Well

Roberto De Mitri

Also available on audio here.

“That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” by Scott Berinato raises vital points on how to manage emotionally during the lockdowns, shutdowns, and meltdowns ushered in by the pandemic.

I’ve been thinking for a few days now about how much the public reaction has been similar to when there’s a death in the family — the stages of denial, panic, bargaining and acceptance, shuttling between each other. So many people can’t stop eating (I’ve turned into a living food vacuum and have named my fridge). Drinking, over-planning, obsessive thinking, poor sleep, constant cleaning have all been ways to numb out the shock for myself and many others.

It’s incredible how much people are trying to “keep busy”, expecting to translate fully-physical lives into digital ones without a hiccup, expecting to live in perfect harmony with kids and spouses and roommates at the snap of a finger that they otherwise would see maybe once a day. You can’t tweet through the profound effects of uncertainty. Even if your job is safe, and you, your family and friends are healthy, whole systems that we’ve relied on for shelter, comfort, release and relief, are gone. Some may never return. Others are gone temporarily, leaving us floundering in the meantime.

My husband and I were talking about eating and drinking too much, and how all our friends are complaining of the same, not to mention putting on weight. The obsession with image and appearance spawned in the digital world these days is being gouged out right now. The obsession with status in money, the weakness of social care, reform and benefits systems is showing how much we’ve passed the proverbial buck on each other. And of course, the self-imposed scrutiny of digital presence doesn’t want a reaction, it wants production: How much are you writing? How much are you reading? Are you accepting that workout challenge yet? How much are you gonna let COVID-19 “get” to you? Use this time wisely. Make the most of your lockdown. Binge watch stuff. Order stuff. Do, do, do, do.

How about don’t? Don’t turn this into a content mine, because it’s not.

Some people are losing whole ways of life, or are dealing with illnesses and deaths on a scale they’ve never had to deal with before. Doctors are being worked to the bone, not to mention traumatized. People are losing loved ones they couldn’t say goodbye to, and if they could, had to do it through a damn video screen.

Those of us fortunate enough to be watching all this from a distance should take time for self-care. I’ve often said grief is the mouth of a deep well. Through the relentless weight of its pain, it pushes you inward to ask all manner of questions, from the most vital to the most childlike. I can’t tell you how many times in the last two weeks I’ve questioned my value as a person, as a writer, or what the hell I’m doing abroad while my mom and friends are all in NYC in mortal danger, or why do I bother with anything at all? What’s motivating me, what do I want, what do I not want? It’s been a nasty time, but a useful time in this great shift of awareness and of heart and of soul. For all of us.

Cry. Sleep. Eat and don’t judge yourself for it, but don’t endanger yourself over either. Take these long-ass hours of sitting at home and journal through stuff. Have the heart-to-hearts and air-clearings you have been hiding behind work hours and gym hours to avoid. Why do you miss what you miss, need what you need? Look at what you use and how. Look at that job you’re slogging through from home now instead of commuting to — is it doing anything for you aside from paying your bills? When all this is over, how do you want your life to be different? If that’s not a question you can answer, who might be able to help?

All this panic, and pain, and grief, is mourning of the past and fear of future. What the hell is everything going to look like on the other side of this? Only we can decide. But it has to start, I think, with a pure personal intent and benevolence to ourselves, which will naturally extend to others.

Be good to yourselves. Follow the safety measures in place in your area. Wait out the storm, and build for tomorrow — somehow, in some form, it will come.

Also available on audio here.

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