I think I have passed through all the classic stages of grief in the last few weeks, as Coronavirus has tightened its grip on all of our lives.
To begin with I was in denial. It’s just flu. It will go away and won’t affect me or my loved ones. Then anger, directed at all those people buying too many toilet rolls and anyone else who isn’t following the rules. Bargaining, for me, took the form of agonising over whether I could save the world by offering my services to the NHS as a midwife. (I have decided, for now, that my family needs me more).
I felt anguished sorrow for the loss of my normal life in an evening of bitter tears and misery. Now, for the time being at least, I feel I have reached some sort of temporary acceptance. My life has changed, I can do nothing about it, and I will try to make the best of it.
I will very likely go through all these stages again, probably more than once. Life is very uncertain right now.
I am sure we are all having similar experiences. One of the strangely wonderful things about this horrible pandemic is the way we are all in it together. And I do believe, deep in my heart, that many good things will come out of this.
As you travel through your own versions of anger, grief, bargaining and acceptance, I wanted to share a little vision of hope I was given a few days ago.
My heart was heavy with the realisation that the whole world is suffering. I was anxious, sad, unsettled. I went alone to the beach and took myself on a long walk. As I trudged along the sand, I was crying. My chest was tight with tension. A thick lump of misery was stuck in my throat.
I reached a remote spot, where the dark marshes meet the sea. Gazing over the grey water, I realised when I had last felt this hopeless. It was when my daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. I remembered this feeling of complete and despairing loss. Something had happened which was completely outside my control. It had come out of nowhere, and destroyed all my freedom. Unexpectedly, my life was in pieces. And there was nothing I could do about it.
But as soon as I had this realisation, something shifted. Because I have recovered from my daughter’s diagnosis. And not only recovered, but grown immeasurably stronger. Yes it was terrible at the time, and for a year of two afterwards. But I now know that my child’s unexpected disability is one of the greatest gifts of my life. This loss has given me unimaginable new happiness, compassion, friendships, faith, opportunities, growth and joy. I would not be the person I am today without my wonderful daughter and all the amazing gifts she has brought to our lives. The pain was worth it, many times over.
As I recognised this, I turned to face the marshes. And I saw, standing among tall rushes, a white egret. A pure white bird in the middle of the surrounding darkness. I watched as it spread its big wings and flew across the grey sky. And I knew in that moment, with certainty, that there is hope. Good things will come out of this.
Yes of course Coronavirus is horrible beyond words. People are dying the world over. All our lives have been smashed apart. We are all hurting. But I believe with a deep faith that we will emerge with wonderful gifts which we could not have received in any other way.
I don’t know yet what these will be. And they will not come without pain. But here are just a few of my inklings of some of the good things to come.
- We are all discovering a new appreciation for our hard working and self-sacrificing healthcare professionals and essential workers who are supporting us all.
- We are spending more time with our families. This is challenging, but can also help us discover new ways to share our lives and be patient with one another.
- Some of us have time to rest a little from our normal daily work, and perhaps find new areas for creativity or self-care.
- We are becoming especially aware of and sensitive to the needs of the elderly and vulnerable members of our society.
- Our exhausted natural environment has an opportunity to rest and recover.
- Unable to visit our normal places of entertainment, we can rediscover some of the joy of spending time in nature.
- As the virus affects all of us regardless of wealth and status, we may find a new sense of solidarity and community bridging some of the barriers of class and nation.
- We can learn new skills and abilities are we are forced to be more resourceful in doing things differently.
- We may have more time and inclination for prayer, meditation and reflection.
- We may learn that we can do quite well without things and experiences we previously thought were essential for our happiness.
- Nations may work together in new ways searching for solutions to the global threat.
These are just a few examples. You may think of others. This is both a communal journey and an individual pilgrimage for us all.
So I encourage you to look out for your own white egret. Signs of hope are all around us. Let us be kind, and support one another at this time of upheaval, loss and new beginnings.
Karen Lawrence is a mother of seven, Yoga teacher and Reflexologist living in Billericay, Essex, UK. You can read more of Karen’s writing at her website www.thecalmspace.co.uk/blog