by Allison Weaver
We were admitted to the hospital for early pre-term labor on March 10th, as Covid-19 was becoming a more pressing matter. The United States was starting to worry as more cases developed here. Our county announced their first case a week earlier.
On March 12th, when we left the hospital, the world was a different place. We left without our daughter and without much awareness of what was going on around us.
We entered a broken reality of our own amid a new reality developing in our country.
There were no serious restrictions on socialization at the time we left the hospital, but major events were being cancelled, and group activities were strongly discouraged of groups more than 10.
However, as the number of those affected in our country rose, so did alarm and fear.
Workplace structure changed drastically, with many businesses forced to close their doors. Friends were laid off and furloughed.
As the world’s focus shifted overnight towards the stressors of the pandemic, the emotional isolation took new forms for me. In “normal” grief, you feel painfully alone.
Your world is at a screeching halt while others press on.
In a pandemic, it feels as though your pain is lost in the chaos.
In a pandemic-free world, grief is isolating.
During a pandemic, your entire support system is coping with the unique challenges of their own.
Everyone is engaged and focused on one stressful event, that is, everyone except for you. It makes you feel singled-out and forgotten at the same time.
I began to feel a new level of guilt. I felt guilty for reaching out to friends because I knew they were facing sudden life changes of their own.
I didn’t want to burden them with my grief. I felt forced to avoid the loss of my daughter when speaking to those I would usually lean on for support.
I try to go along with the “think positive” mantra that some facing the pandemic are spreading. In attempts to keep friends and family from worrying about me, I tell them I see the “bright side,” but truthfully, all I feel is darkness.
It only drives those empty feelings further inward, intensifying them.
I also feel guilty for being unable to emotionally support the people I love during this stressful time. I can’t even check in on them.
As someone who strongly values being a good friend, I have found I also grieve this inability. I don’t have the emotional capability to ask how they’re doing, what work is like, how events important to them have changed, how they’re feeling.
I care about them as deeply as I did before, but this fog that I am surviving in settles into every crevice of my being, inhibiting my functionality more often than not.
It hurts to be absent, so paralyzed by sadness. I sit and watch my world spin.
Once the shelter mandate was enforced, the social isolation compounded with the existing trauma. The physical presence of a support system is vital to someone who is grieving. That is something COVID-19 has taken from me.
Worse than that, my husband and I are confined to the four walls of our home. The very four walls we imagined bringing our little girl home to – watching her grow and have all her “firsts” in – all haunt me with reminders of what will never be.
We are left in a home with no infant cries, no dirty diapers, a barren nursery, and sleepless nights induced by heartache.
THIS is where we are confined and left to grieve, forced to try to ignore the hurt surrounding us.
I try to fill our home with pleasant reminders of her; her urn, pictures, plants given to us in her memory.
Being unable to get away with my husband or even go on a simple dinner date is detrimental to healing.
Resources and outlets I would typically turn to, church, bible study, podcasts, and radio, all revolve around COVID-19. It feels as if any crises outside of the virus lack significance. I have learned to sub the words “child loss” or “grief” in place of “virus” or “pandemic.”
As I watch social media posts and Instagram stories of people who so eloquently look at the bright side of the pandemic, I find myself feeling discouraged and jealous.
It’s not that I am choosing not to see the bright side in my situation; it is that I can’t. I physically and emotionally can’t.
In the rawness of my grief, seeing posts like, “Let’s flood our walls with positivity!” make the depressing feelings worse as I begin to compare.
“Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I flood the feed with positivity?”
The truth is, there isn’t much positivity in my life right now. One thing I am trying to accept is that my current lack of positivity is okay.
It is okay not to feel okay, and it is okay if you don’t have anything positive to contribute right now (this even goes for those not experiencing a loss – it is okay for you, too!).
The tremendous loss I am experiencing is gut-wrenching, and it will take a long time for this grief to become more manageable as I learn to live with this gaping wound.
Other messages suggest we all use this time wisely, to develop a skill of some sort.
Some joke, “We are either going to come out of this as professional chefs or alcoholics.” I laugh, but I can’t relate. I can’t cook or bake, because I don’t have the energy to plan, prep, shop for ingredients, and make the recipe.
I don’t often drink, because drinking too much feels wrong and can draw out my sadness. It is weird to be in a world where everyone can relate to jokes that you cannot.
These ideas, like those of positivity, further drive my isolation. I can’t use this time to better myself or get projects done.
I am using this time to keep my head above water.
I am using this time to soak in the angst of missing my daughter and daydream of all she could have been.
I am using this time to cry, to stare in the distance, to ignore phone calls and Zoom meetings, to hug my dog and husband when I hurt, to tie up loose ends with insurance for my daughter’s time in the hospital, to order my daughter’s urn and pick a spot to place it in our home, to try and make it through each day, to ride each tumultuous wave of grief, to accept my new reality, to work on finding hope in a very hopeless place.
I watch as others are able.
The theme of this pandemic for me has been watching other’s lives as I try desperately to make sense of my own.
If you, too, are facing the trauma of the loss of a baby or child (or any tremendous loss, for that matter), please read this and know I understand the complications the pandemic adds for you.
I know not watching the news because your mind can’t take on another trauma.
I know if your life is in such a fog, you are an absent friend, unable to engage with others as you usually would.
I understand you feel your grief is lost.
I know you have tried to find therapists, but most are inundated with cases from COVID-related anxieties.
I understand because of this, you reluctantly settle for any therapist, even if they aren’t a good fit.
I know being in the home you imagined watching your baby grow up in is painful and debilitating to your healing.
I understand the inability to leave your house stunting your ability to move forward. I know your social network’s focus has shifted to one specific event and how your disconnect from this event further drives the feelings of “I am so alone.”
I want you to know – I understand you are not alone, and although this may delay your healing, we can get through this. We will get through this.
Do one thing every day for yourself that you find healing. Exercising, walking, journaling, reading, anything uplifting for you.
We may not be able to see the bright side in our situation, but I know our bright side is coming.
It has to be.