I was made to reflect recently on the many souls that have departed in the past year. Perhaps naively, I’ve grown accustomed to being lucky enough to go numerous years without suffering much personal bereavement in my immediate social circle. Maybe it’s a sign of my getting older, combined with the unique circumstances brought on by the pandemic. But never in my life (growing up in the West) have there been so many casualties all around me. An experience mirrored in their own social circles, by my friends, family, and acquaintances.
Previously, the casualties I’ve experienced have mainly been that of elderly relatives, a few serious ailments, a few accidents, and one missing person spread across my entire lifetime. Rather than, the back-to-back surprise losses of individuals, that just a year ago, I could have sworn would be in my life for many years to come. In the past year, social distancing requirements have made seeing our loved ones difficult, if not impossible. Based on age, medical history, Covid-19 restrictions where one resides, and distance. The latter being, for those whose families live across the country, or across the world. No longer having that loved one in your life, after being unable to see them for much longer than is customary, can be a hard blow to bear.
I have discussed in previous posts, mental health and how much this pandemic can adversely affect this kind of wellness. Humans are social animals, so we suffer from the very isolation that is required, for the safety of others right now. Those who had issues they were dealing with prior to this societal isolation are having to deal with them on their own. Without the physical support systems, they were used to. Others who have never suffered from mental health concerns are faced with this unexpected challenge, without the pillars of support they usually have present. The programs available are being overwhelmed by unforeseen demand and having to be made virtual in order to keep each other safe.
So along with loss due to Covid-19-related complications, I have personally experienced bereavement caused by mental health crises. For some, how intense the world has become, uncertain, and separate has either exacerbated prior issues, or created an imbalance in their psyche that caused them to choose to exit our lives, and this world. For those who knew them, and loved them, the guilt of “not being there” physically for them, is crushing. Because when someone becomes overwhelmed by some sort of mental health concern, it can become hard for them to reach out to you and ask for help. Often you can tell from their appearance, and/or how they comport themselves in person, that something is off. And hopefully, your loved one will then open up, answer your question(s), and allow you to help them. But with the distance, it’s so easy to not know anything is wrong until it’s too late. I understand that legally we have not been able to truly be present in the lives of most of those we care for, since the pandemic was declared. But not knowing whether our presence could have made the difference needed to avert their demise, is devastating. Many around me have either lost persons who chose to leave or had complications combined with the pandemic, which caused their exit. Those left behind have such a hard road ahead of them, with few distractions from the immensity of these personal tragedies.
I don’t mean to make a heavy situation, heavier, but I also don’t believe that “hiding your head in the sand,” and pretending things are not happening if they are, makes things better. Actually, I’m a firm believer that one of the reasons why I am still here, is that I do my best to name whatever it is that is troubling me, at all times. I always have. I drag it out of my mental closet, examine it under the light of day, and share these concerns with either a close friend or (since I’ve been an adult), a therapist. Often a professional can give you insight that maybe your friends can’t. They can offer you hope in the form of programs available in your area that often your friends do not know about. Getting an external perspective on an internal issue helps. Because, often what feels so awful, or hopeless inside your head, isn’t when shared with someone else. Sometimes you don’t know that the burden you carry isn’t your fault, it happened to you. Or that it can be shared with others to alleviate that pain, and work through those issues. It doesn’t have to cost money, there are free hotlines, online resources available for free at your public library (which is open for select services, despite Covid), and so many wonderful programs to help even if one feels they cannot afford to.
My goal with this blog, talking about the heavy issues of mental health, bereavement, and grief, is that hopefully, someone who needs to see this, will. Someone who needs to witness this perspective, this path back to your usual self, even in these uncertain times, will. Or that others that are doing well, might read this, and check on their friends, family, and/or acquaintances, just that little bit more. Even if, they appear fine on social media, or in group chats. Let them know you’re here, that you love them. And that if they need to see your face to discuss something that’s difficult for them that you’ll be there. Even if, it’s from across their yard or balcony.
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