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What Grieving Looks like during a Pandemic

I lost someone I love this week. Nine weeks into sheltering-in orders and working from home, it turns out grieving in another state, alone and during social distancing is not easy. But there is beauty in grieving properly and I really dug in this week. I’m learning to care for myself when I need to so I took three days off work. The “old me” didn’t take much time off. My high sense of responsibility wrangles me and keeps me from being true to myself, but finally, I’m learning that this is essential to embracing life to the fullest, living with intention, growing, and processing through healing of any kind.


Life is complicated, and this grieving was complicated since this was my mom-in-law of 30 years. Separated (and now divorced) for 5 years from her step-son, and still very close with both of them. I moved out of state after the separation, and of course, had I still been married, I would be there with them now, helping his dad and grieving with the rest of the family. The blessing is that we loved each other, were still in close contact these past five years, and told each other so. She was truly was of the easiest people I have ever known to hang out with and just made you feel like you were wonderful just the way you are. I don’t think in my 35+ years of knowing her that I have ever heard her complain.


And so, alone, and processing my grief, I decided to open some boxes that have been packed for the past 14 months since moving to my new apartment. I’ve been taking the continued “let-go” and giving away things in stages, and up until now I just didn’t have the energy for the next wave. But this week, wanting to open all the boxes with the photo albums was the perfect time and I was ready to open the rest as well. I texted my closest, longtime childhood friend, Brian, and we talked about the process of letting go and clearing out the cobwebs in our lives. I was really digging in… photos, memories, more things that it was time to give away instead of leaving packed in boxes. He recommended an album to help in my grieving process and as I listed to Patti Griffin’s, Living with Ghosts album, I thought about some of those ghosts I’m now at peace with and was grateful. More boxes, more things, more photos, more let go, and lots of tears. This night before that very early morning when she passed away, I discovered the song on that album, Heavenly Day. It truly was a heavenly day for her.


With three days off at the beginning of the week, I had to face work again for a couple days. The tidal wave of concerns, new processes and demand for understanding current legislation in regard to COVID-19 has increased the workload and stress at work. By the time Saturday arrived, my penned-up energy from grieving and working remotely alone in my apartment all week literally launched me out the door. Normally, I would be active every day, but the grieving threw me this week. Some trails were recently announced to be open so I headed out.

I had to move, walk, climb. I felt so caged. When I first arrived at the trailhead, I veered a bit off the path and found the most beautiful, peaceful and serene section of the river that was flowing over a concrete slab that created a perfect, little waterfall. I sat there for quite some time, and although I didn’t want to be alone anymore, this was perfect to be here alone, not hearing anyone’s voices, only the sound of the water and watching bright orange dragonflies. I rested and let myself feel all the things I was feeling. After about 30 minutes, an uncle with his nephew and fishing poles showed up at my little haven and that was my queue to start moving.

I found the trailhead that started on the other side of the river. After boulder hopping a bit, and plunking one foot in the water, I got to the other side and headed up the 1400’ ascent to the top of the mountain. It was so good, and although the ascent was slow going for me, I did it and still had plenty of energy when I got to the top. The views were open and wide and I was able to say hello to quite a few people at a more-than-10’ distance while hiking. The day was good. I was lonely and I was sad, but it was still good because when you do what’s right, you always feel better. The descent was quick.


I arrived home at 5pm to beautiful weather and a calm bay. I just wasn’t ready to be back in my apartment alone and I still had reserves of energy so I took my board out and went paddling. This memorial weekend has been hard. Although the beaches still aren’t open, there are a lot of people out on the sand, and in the water in boats, kayaks and on boards laughing and having fun together. For people sheltering alone, this is not easy. Seeing and hearing families together only amplifies solitude, but there’s always so very much to be thankful for, and this day I was deeply grateful for my health and the energy I have to do my favorite things outdoors.



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