Social isolation is hard enough, but in times of bereavement, practicing appropriate distancing can serve to compound and make these feelings of grief worse.
With everyone talking about a global crisis we currently find ourselves in, personal crisis and personal bereavement may feel insignificant. Contrastingly however, it can also heighten because of the emotional responses to constant distress involved at this globally anxious time.
Finding yourself alone with your thoughts, unable to arrange funerals or process sensitive paperwork, unable to see family and friends who offer critical support. To not have access to professional support services like physiologist and councillors. Navigating the challengers when attending medical visits for check-ups or post-partum loss care, which could mean partners or support persons may not be able to attend.
Whatever stage of post child-loss road you are on, the current global pandemic may impact your usual coping strategies. For my circumstance, we had to honour our daughters 6th birthday while practicing strict self-isolation and social distancing measures.
So what did that mean in terms of how this birthday differed from all others? It meant our personal traditions and usual outlets for support where not an option. For me personally, every year I have gone to the beach. To sit alone, to wander the sand and rocks, to look at the artworks on the foreshore. Every year I have done this. I find it a balancing and reflective way to remember her. I muse on what it would be like if I could look down at her by my side, what we would talk about, where she would run too, how curious she would be about the her world.
I look out to the water and just be with her for a while, sunglass on to blur the tears.
Each year I open her memory box, filled with all I physically have of her. I take her tiny quilted baby blanket, the one she lay on in the hospital, and each year I hold it my hands and bring it to my face. I smell her on it as if she was only just lifted from it for a moment. Each year her newborn scent is still lingering there for me.
This year I was scared, scared to go to the beach, social distancing meant it would be unwise to do so. I thought about it, maybe I could sit in the car, maybe I could just walk along the beach, exercise is still allowed. But ultimately, I did neither. Community consciousness played a role in that, but also the thought of not being able to sit calmly, to have as much time as I needed to stare out into the horizon, to have my time with her uninterrupted, to be able to sit and cry if needed.
I also considered opening her memory box, but without my usual supports; friends to hug, family to cry with, places to retreat too, to walk it off, to go on a hike to calm myself, to walk between the tall trees. To find aimless chatter in everyday hellos with strangers walking their own paths. I felt ill prepared to face the emotions of opening the lid and bringing her memory to life.
So, I stopped, I left her memory box unopened.
I didn’t post anything on social media, I didn’t get a cake for our living children to celebrate and remember their sibling. I just didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. Not this year. Not right now.
When this pandemic subsides, when things return to normal, or maybe even a new normal globally, I will be better able to process the grief. But grief in isolation can bare differently on everyone, for me, I just walked passed it. I looked, it was there, but didn’t stay. I remembered and acknowledged it, I just couldn’t honour it in the way I was used to.
Instead I stayed connected to my friends, I exercised, I wrote, I drew, I played with my living children, I was proactive in other areas of my life.
I kept my positive attitude, but recognised my boundaries.
For this year, at this time. This is what is working as I process my grief at the stage I’m at.
Please remember support service remain open, there are 24h support lines for bereavement and loss, find them, call them. There are online support groups that are wonderful, join the group, share your emotions.
Honour your grief, stay safe, seek support, look after yourself and each other. We’re all in this together.