In his piece “Laugh Again,” Grief Dialogues author Paul Atreides wrote, “In the face of death, we need glimmers of light and hope; to let people know it’s okay to go on living, to laugh again.”
And so we will. Just not right now. Probably not tomorrow or the day after, but in some future that is better than the one we are currently living.
In the meantime, I share a collective feeling of love, loss, and grief. I salute all those on the front lines—the medical personnel, chaplains, first responders, law enforcement, grocery store workers, garbage collectors, janitors, postal workers, pharmacists and all “essential personnel.”
I can’t pretend to know the challenges they are facing. I think Lin-Manuel Miranda said it best when he wrote the Hamilton lyrics:
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down…
And learn to live with the unimaginable
I do understand grief however. What I don’t understand is grief in isolation. That’s not how this is supposed to work. When you grieve, you seek comfort but today there isn’t any. No consoling arms to hug the hurt out of you for even an hour. Friends and relatives who might otherwise provide assistance, e.g. help with meals and shopping may also be isolating or preoccupied with their own family’s situation.
Keep in Contact
Under the current circumstances you may have no choice but to care for yourself. It’s important to keep in regular contact with others using the phone, text, or internet. For example, each morning I send a quick text to my sister and another to a dear childhood friend. Just keep in touch. Just so they know I’m alive and vice versa. Sometimes it’s a cute picture or a funny meme. Anything kind will do.
Get Rest and Don’t Stop Personal Hygiene
Try to get some fresh air or sunlight each day – even opening a window helps. Practice exceptional hygiene. It’s a fact. People are less aware of hygiene when they are grieving. Even though there is no one else in the room, you will feel so much better.
Set a Routine
I try to keep a regular routine of getting up, dressing, and eating meals at the usual time. I also invite one virtual dinner guest a night (via Face Time or Skype). For some this is awkward, for others, it’s a lifeline. Either way, we dine at 7 p.m. I save that glass of wine for dinner, especially if that bottle starts tempting me by noon.
Focus (for as long as you are able)
When you think about your lost loved one, I encourage you to focus on the life that was lived and avoid getting stuck on the manner of death or the lack of an immediate funeral or memorial.
Set a day/time and ask others who knew your loved one to light a candle in memory. And, if they can, set the candle in front of a photograph of the deceased to create an emotional connection.
Out of Grief Comes Art. That’s our motto. And my last suggestion is to create something. It could be a culinary creation, visual art, music, writing, whatever form your muse takes you.
For me it will always be writing. Perhaps writing a letter to your loved one is what feeds your soul at this moment. Talk to them through your words. Tell them what you wish you could have said to them as they died. By doing this, you are completing a natural grief task important for your own well-being.
To help you realize a time when you will laugh, I offer you this PDF of Paul Atriedes’ essay “Laugh Again” originally published in Grief Dialogues: The Book in response to the tragic Las Vegas Strip Shooting 2017.
Be well. Stay safe. Until we meet again.