Grief and Transition in Covid-19 Times
Grief and transition have been on my mind a lot lately. My anticipation of its arrival didn’t come long after the arrival of our global pandemic. Now, many of us are experiencing a multitude of transitions as we navigate a new way of life. We learn new information daily that leads us to contemplate new change, make adjustments, and ride into another wave of unknown.
The transitory state of this global pandemic has felt different than transitions I’ve experienced in the past; be they big or small, “normal” or novel. Even with the eternal no-end-in-sight feeling that can come in times of transition, for me there has typically been some semblance of knowing where I’m going… to end up: an illusion of some kind of predicted permanence, per se.
Impermanence in Buddhism is one of the 3 marks of existence, followed by suffering and non-self. Our permanence in this pandemic has been consistently tested day after day, month after month – sometimes minute after minute. Not a day has gone by that we haven’t been reminded of what used to be, now is not, and our not knowing if it ever will be… again. Have we officially lost what was?
Although all things are impermanent, most of us tend to rely on some illusion of an object to attach to, a stable ground to stand on. And at this moment that ground is perpetually moving moment by moment into even more unknown. As these tectonic plates shift out of our control, and we watch as our feet, arms and legs try to gain some ground… we may find our ourselves asking:
“How long will this last? Is there an end in sight? Will we ever “know” again? Are we going to be okay? Are we SAFE? Is this the new impermanence?” And the most dreaded question of all… “Can we live with WHAT IS?”
“Change isn’t just a fact of life we have to accept and work with. To feel the pain of impermanence and loss can be a profoundly beautiful reminder of what it means to exist.”
Norman Fischer, Lions Roar
I’ve been thinking of grief along with transition, because transition is what happens during a state of change from one state into another, and no matter which way we slice the impermanent cake, change, be it pleasant or unpleasant, comes with loss. With change, we experience the grief that comes with loss of the old, and perhaps even the grief of moving into the new for fear of officially losing what was.
So what do we do in these unique times? Well, it is unique to every person. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic in different ways. The inequity in our world accounts for this. People already struggling are dying, or losing loves ones. Financial stress and challenges are doubling down. As for me, I’ll be focusing on leaning into the pain of impermanence and inequity more, becoming more curious about my suffering, and give myself permission to experience my humanity. I can exercise compassion for my discomfort of WHAT IS… and always will be: impermanence, suffering and non-existence.
Whatever you are experiencing during these times, know that it’s possible you may be experiencing, along with many others, the grief and trauma that is normal to experience in a global pandemic – and you are not alone. Whether we know it, or not, feel it or not, believe it or not – we are indeed all in this together. Sending a big hug to all and sending my heart to all that are suffering more greatly than others.