Grieving A Life You Could Have Lived

This pandemic feels never ending. For the longest time most of us were figuring out how to get through the uncertainty, the fear and the restrictions imposed on us. And just as we felt ready to go back to normal and start the hard work of processing what happened to us, the new variant Omicron hit and we are set back as if all the work we had put in to survive to date was for nothing. We’ve been set back to trying to understand how to get through it all. Once in a while, when I relax and I forget that I am in a mode of functioning and getting through all the external negativity, I remember all the plans I had and the life I had laid out before COVID hit. The trip and experiences I had planned just one month after COVID hit. The life I had envisioned for myself, the life I had lived before COVID and the life that was so close to happening that I have no control over getting back and never will be able to. Lost moments and lost opportunities. I think of all the other people that must feel the same. People that had graduations, weddings, even funerals planned, all these big milestones that are an essential part of living that we just had to accept we will never ever get to relive. There is a time for everything in our lives, and COVID has forced us to skip or miss out on those. That’s for us lucky ones that haven’t lost a loved one to the disease. My heart breaks especially for the youth, that are spending what they are told are the best time of their lives highjacked and clouded by uncertainty, illness and death. It is in it’s way a life lost we need to grieve at one point.

Grief has famously been divided in five stages which help us make sense of the loss and anger we are feeling. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Over recent years, psychologists have also added Finding Meaning. Everyone can find themselves in different stages at different times. It does not go in a particular order. Some stages you will go through longer, some will be short and some you will always go back to. I would also advocate for a pre-stage: Acknowledgement. Acknowledgement that there is a reason to grieve. I think often we are focused on moving on, or getting through in whatever shape or fashion. Some turn to alcohol, some to Netflix, some inwards and others start jogging for whatever reason. It is ok to take a step back and let your feelings catch up to you even if they aren’t productive. You are right to be sad, confused, frustrated and depressed about not being able to live a life you had planned or envisioned. It’s your right to be sad or angry about the life stolen from you.

It may not be the right time to experience it. So it’s ok if you put these feelings in a box and wait till you are done functioning. You can hang out in denial for as long as you want to but at one point, the other stages will need to catch up. We need to process all of our feelings in order to manage them. As they rightfully say “Handle your feelings before they handle you”. There is no sense to why you have lost this life. There is no reason or lesson to be learned from COVID – or so I believe. I often think of people that have lived through world wars, that not only had to go through a war but also the aftermath of rebuilding the country and their position in this world – I think about them because they had it worse and it gives me some comfort that there were times when people went through worse things and it was not their fault. How ever you choose to grieve, or the various ways you choose to grieve, give yourself time to do so. You may choose to write a book about it (or hey – perhaps a blog like this one), or decide to relive the various milestones or trips at another point in time. You may chose to rip up pictures or even bury some of the artifacts that remind you of your lost life. You may take up boxing (always helps me) or writing a letter or song to COVID. We might never have closure and the way things are going, we might never be free of this COVID burden. But perhaps, perhaps one day this grief of a life we have lost might not consume as as much anymore.

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