It Feels Like Grief

The word I use most often to describe this past week—this week that felt like a year—is disorienting.

I couldn’t get my footing. “Where IS everyone?” crossed my mind a dozen times a day, even though I knew full well where everyone was. At least—abstractly I know. They were sheltering in place. But it sure did feel like everyone had just disappeared.

And the physical feelings—the heaviness in my chest. The ringing in my ears. The way my eyes keep squinting up. The anxious washing of the hands. The pacing.

The trying to make sense of it. “But what did I even THINK about all day long before Coronavirus?”

That feeling.

I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was a feeling that was completely new and yet somehow familiar.

And then I realized.

It feels like grief.

Grief because the world I once knew had died. It is gone forever. Even if things get “back to normal”, they will never be the same. I know this. You know this. There will forever be that understanding that things can change in a heartbeat. That it’s not just an *event* that happened, like 9/11 or a hurricane or fire — it’s.

It’s the death of a future I could see, and understand and anticipate and make sense of.

I’m OK. I haven’t gotten sick, or known anyone personally who has. But, like most people, I have loved ones at risk. I’ve heard people talk about the deaths of people they know. I’ve read about the numbers in Italy and listened to the singing from the balconies.

There’s a hole in the world.

Reporter Peter Alexander: But what would you tell the millions of Americans who are scared?

This was the question asked today of United States President Donald Trump, and he couldn’t answer it.

Donald Trump: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter… That is a VERY nasty question and you ought to get back to reporting.”

So let me take a shot at it.

I would like to say we will all get through this together, but it is simply not true. People have died, and more people will die.

Confronting your own mortality is never pleasant, never easy — but in some ways it is what MUST be done to beat the Coronovirus.

The only way to get through it is to truly understand that people can and will die from this outbreak. And the only way to get through it is to mitigate and suppress the disease with all of the public health initiatives we are currently doing. All of the closings. All of the lockdowns. All of the social distancing. All of the sheltering in place.

Know that you are doing this not just to protect yourself, but to protect millions of others.

Know that you are doing this for the common good.

Know that you are doing this because we care about humanity and we care about each other.

Know that it is OK to be scared. To admit you are scared. IT IS OKAY.

But what is not OK is to let fear send us all into a tailspin, to refuse to do what is recommended because you refuse to face reality. It’s not OK to use the Coronavirus as an excuse to let your racism or xenophobia bubble to the surface. It’s not OK to

But, fear? Fear of the unknown, fear of the changing world? That fear is OK. And together we can tackle the fear we all feel together.
We can reach out to each other — virtually, or IRL 6 feet apart — and comfort each other like we do in times of grief.
We can empathize with each other. Talk to each other. Be afraid and grieve together.

Together.

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