“So, how are you?” My therapist asks.
“I’m alright. I can’t help but see the parallels. I’m getting some tension headaches.”
“The whole country is, on a level, going through what I went through in 2018. And I’m watching it happen like a movie.”
“That has to be bringing up some memories.”
“It does. It really does.”
“You’ve gone through a lot in these past few years. It has to be difficult seeing something like it, on that big scale, happening again.”
“I feel well acquainted with grief at this point. You can see it on everyone’s face, you can read it in their Facebook posts, you can watch it all happen on the faces of our government officials. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I keep watching everyone move through the various stages. So fast. People are hurting like I was hurting.”
“But what about you? How are YOU handling it?”
“The only way I can. I acknowledge that I’m probably going through this process of grief again.”
“And at this point you’ve grieved your town. You’ve grieved your husband.”
“So what are you doing now? What’s going through your mind?”
I pause. “I think for me, the implications of this virus may feel different.”
“Because once you grieve a few times, so much at once, you get quicker at it or at least more aware of it. You sort of say “hello” to it again and invite it to pull up a chair beside you.”
She smiles. “Sort of like a “hello darkness my old friend” kind of scenario.”
“Exactly. To love, to embrace this world, is to ultimately lose it.”
“So what does that mean for you?”
“I guess it means I’m trying not to fall into cynicism. You know? The past few years have been a pattern of loss. It’s easy to just get used to it and stay in grief because, eventually, I’m definitely going to lose something or someone I love again.”
“So for me, I’m watching my whole country grieve and I wish I could give them all instructions to feel it. To embrace it. To let it in like a wave so it will eventually pass through. That better times really are ahead. And, yes, there will be bad times again. Everything, everything ends. To love is to lose.”
“You’re still talking about other people.”
“I can’t help it. I better understand myself when I understand others.”
I take a breath.
“I just keep feeling this weight on my shoulders. Like I have to do something to alleviate the suffering. But that’s the trouble with grief. There’s nothing anyone can really do besides sit with you in your pain. Just sit without trying to fix. That’s sort of what we’re all doing across the country. We’re choosing to suffer with one another. Most people, anyway. But I fear for some.”
“Why is that?”
“This whole idea of positivity. Being positive constantly. It’s unsustainable. So many won’t let themselves grieve. But grief has a way of showing up in your body anyway.”
“You said you were getting tension headaches?”
“Yes. Like I did when I was a teenager. All through my shoulders and neck. I have to remind myself several times a day to breathe. Like I’m holding my breath waiting for better days. Like I don’t want to breathe this air.”
I take a deep breath. I let it fill me up.
“But this…. this is reality. I don’t want to waste my life waiting for better times. I’m going to live it right now. Could you imagine if I waited these whole past 18 months after the hurricane, holding my breath for better days?”
I lean back in my chair.
“I never would have breathed. I would have wasted 18 months of my life. But you have to wake up every day and choose to live. You have to choose life. Or it will pass you by.”
I turn to look out the window, to the spring scene just outside. “You know, I’m grateful. I really am. I’m thankful to be alive. I’m truly, truly grateful.”
“But… I really wish I didn’t have to try so hard to be grateful every day. Every single day I choose it.” I shake my head. “I just wish it could be easy. Something I could lean into, not something I fight for and hold on tightly to. Like a lifeline. I make lists in my head. Roof over my head. Food in my children’s bellies. Paper for me to write on.”
I shake my head. “But that’s not always true. I just can’t remember a day right now where I didn’t have to try so hard to hold on to my sense of self. It’s been a long journey these past few years. I keep telling myself if I hang on long enough, there’s a light that’s coming.” I sigh. “But I feel for everyone. I feel for everyone in pain. I truly do.”
Tears threaten to spill down my cheeks.
“But I do wonder.”
“What do you wonder?”
I swallow the lump in my throat. “If life is really always like this. Moving from one bad time to the next.”
She smiles. “Not always.”
I nod. “Not always.”