Grief revisited — Katie Christianson

I recognize my privilege. My husband is relatively healthy, we live in comfort, and we are together, in love, and have a future to consider and eagerly anticipate. And. The magnitude of someone else’s struggles does not negate my own, just as the magnitude of mine does not negate theirs. That means that even though we haven’t gotten COVID so far (through sheer luck combined with stringent and hyper-diligent prevention), we are fine in many ways, absolutely terrific in others, and able to cope with just about everything, I am entitled to my grief. Know this:

The magnitude of our collective grief does not diminish your individual experience. You are entitled to your grief.

But what the hell do we do with all these feelings? Find a therapist? Oh, good luck finding one who will bill your insurance (if you even have coverage), a capable provider, who has any sort of openings in their schedule, and whom you can trust in a meaningful way. Talk to a friend? Absolutely. If you have a circle of friends who can hold space for all your feelings and who aren’t experiencing their own grief and need your support. Meditate? Yes, sure. Along with regular exercise, good eating, and time off, all of which go by the wayside when you are just trying to survive.

Some time ago, I told you, my gentle readers, that we are all doing just fine. We’re all doing the best we can in the middle of a pandammit with everyday trauma piling on our collective shock and grief. That is still true, but so many of us felt like we were at our breaking point nearly two years ago, and still, we have to hang on — to sanity, to reason, to some notion of “normal”.

I want to tell you to Feel All Your Feelings. I want to tell you to make space and time to express them: to weep and wail, gnash your teeth, scream and rage and throw things. And when I got the news this morning about Debbie, rather than breathe deeply and allow this grief to wash over and through me, to simply be with my feelings, I gritted my teeth, blinked away tears, and got back to work. So I know.

When Joe was going through treatment and his health was the most fragile, or when he was sick and our security precarious, holding on was the only choice. Sadness, fear, and anger felt like a bottomless abyss of blackness, and if I moved too close to the edge or leaned over or dipped my toe in, I was certain I would be swamped and unable to ever get out again.

It still feels that way. How can that be, four years after Joe’s diagnosis, two years after we first heard of COVID, this far into global trauma? What do we do with all this stuff crowding our lives, making it nearly impossible for us to move through the world gracefully or with ease?

The truth is that I don’t know. I do remember the adage: Trouble shared is trouble halved, and joy shared is joy doubled. I feel the truth of that, even if the math is a little sus. I know that these burdens we bear individually and collectively are massive and that most of us are bent over with the difficulty of holding them up. I also know that others of us are quietly thriving and reluctant to say so out of respect for other people and fear of jinxing our lucky streak.

This writing is filled with more question marks than you might have hoped. It’s not chipper or full of practical tips or even entertaining. I’m sorry for that; I love to make you smile. But I do think the more we normalize giving voice to our feelings, the more we might be better able to bear them, whatever they are.

So here’s to showing up for a Zoom meeting without being polished and perky and owning that. Here’s to not being sorry for the delay in my communication. Here’s to honestly replying to your friends’ texts, with your own truth, and honoring their truth. Here’s to Feeling All Our Feelings.

I will call Debbie and speak once more to her today. I will tell her that she is inspirational, bright, beautiful, and that her life will continue to hold significant meaning. I will tell her that I will feel this grief in her honor, and that I will not let it get lost, a drop in the ocean. I will hold this one loss separate for a moment, and then I will dissolve that bright boundary protecting my heart. For just a little bit, I will hold still and let the abyss swallow me and allow Debbie’s passing to open the floodgates for all those other losses. And then I will claw my way back out of the abyss and get back to work.

Originally published at https://www.katiechristianson.com on January 29, 2022.

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Katie Christianson

Katie Christianson

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