Allowing ourselves to mourn

Loss is an inevitable aspect of being a human, and the older we advance in age, the more losses we have sustained personally and observed in the world. While we would all prefer to live in a fairy tale land where loss doesn’t happen, we can’t. In fact, learning how to navigate through loss is one of the life lessons we are all confronted with in the course of our lives.

What loss is for me is probably different than it is for you. We are all unique creatures and what hits each of us really hard, right in the gut, differs as well. So does our reactions to it. Some of our reactions are attributable to our inborn characteristics, many are learned from our family, home environment and society.

Mourning is a powerful and important part of the overall longitudinal process of managing a loss. Mourning allows us to encounter the rawness and soul pain of the loss experience; to plumb its emotional parameters and dimensions and, then, to push the boundaries of what we thought we were capable of enduring to find out that we are ultimately stronger than we once surmised.

About three weeks ago, I felt that really deep sense of loss due to Covid-19 for the very first time. That particular day, I was leaving after a day at work when it hit me hard. All of the sudden, everything felt distorted and strange and I realized I was beginning to forget what it was like before Covid arrived at our doors. And lives.

I also realized that I had not allowed myself the chance to mourn the changes in my life  due to Covid.  Sure I’d rationally processed them, tried to accept the odd situation we are living in globally, and even had my mental reasoning about what Covid may be teaching us. But mourn? No, I had pushed that all aside.

Right now there is so much mourning that is not allowed to happen publicly, such as large funeral services and memorials. My cousin’s partner of forty years passed on a few months ago in New York City during the height of Covid there, and she was not able to visit him at his hospital bed in his last hours, nor to have a meaningful memorial service for him – yet. So she is in a type of double mourning now: for the loss of her life partner and the loss of not having had a collective closure.

But even before Covid, we oftentimes had not given ourselves the time or space to mourn events and experiences that impacted us and needed some processing and closure. Malidome Some, who now lives in the United States but hails from Burkina Faso, writes eloquently about the need for mourning and ritual in life, and the paucity that he has found for this important aspect of the human experience in the United States. I attended one of his weekend workshops several years ago where we focused upon creating a ritual to carry out a collective type of ancestral healing through our mourning and release.

My day of Covid mourning was (gratefully) not brought about by the loss of any loved one to this virus, or even any out-of-the-ordinary event. It was just when it hit me how different it all is now, and how parts of me long for the way-it-used-to-be. I just missed the ease with which some things used to naturally happen, things that used to seem so normal and ordinary and I took for granted – like seeing a person’s face to smile at them on the street or going to a restaurant on Friday evening with my husband or taking a trip on a plane or not having to worry about washing my hands all the time. I know its not big stuff, all things considered, but that day all this loss felt almost unbearable to me.

And so I went home and went straight to bed and pulled the covers over my head. Then I tried to navigate as deep into that sense of loss as I could; to not shirk the pain but rather push to its center where it seemed most ponderous. I lay there and allowed myself to feel sorry for myself, to feel pity for all of us, and to just feel like crap. I even cried a bit and hit the pillow a few times.

Sometimes we are afraid of navigating ourselves through the pain because it hurts and aren’t sure if we can find an exit out again. But what I have found that works for me is to instead embrace that pain, acknowledge it and try to befriend it. That’s the mourning part.

And then there is the other side. The morning, the next morning when I woke up, I felt remarkably better, better than I’d felt for months. I’m glad I allowed myself that mourning moment, instead of pushing my feelings aside and trying to get on with my many daily tasks.

I hope that you are doing well at this most unusual and challenging time at so many levels. I shared my own personal experience here with the intention that it may be of some healing and help. We are all a bit wounded now, and that is the way it is. As one of my favorite composers and singers, Leonard Cohen, wrote: “There is crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

-Published in Monadnock Shopper 10/2020

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