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Finding Peace in the Time of COVID-19

A mom reflects on grief and slowing down during the coronavirus pandemic

Published on: June 19, 2020

mother holding her baby by the window looking reflective

It’s been two months. It’s been more than two months. It’s been a while. It’s been long enough I no longer feel like counting the days. The point of counting the days seems, to me, to be something you do when you count DOWN to something. Not when you count UP to an unknown and unknowable number of days in this new life.

You’re not going to believe me, but it’s peaceful, being home this long. I don’t mean quiet. It’s not quiet. Today, as I was switching laundry for the millionth time in the basement, it sounded like a herd of buffalo was stampeding above me, and the combined weight of my children is under a hundred pounds. Being home is not simple, and my feelings about my world are not simple. It’s not clean. The house, of course, but also the feelings. This kind of grief, though, is peaceful, in its way.

When my mother died, 10 years ago, I felt this way. Peaceful. When she was sick, there was a scrambling feeling, a feeling like I had to savor each moment, had to care for her and make sure she was okay, even though we knew she was not okay. No one was sleeping, no one was eating.

Something I’ll never forget, that turns my stomach now, is how, when she died at home, the exact moment right after, I was hungry. My heart was beating out of my chest and my stomach growled. It was like my body was forcing me to remember that I was alive. I had to eat and my heart had to keep beating. We ate sandwiches in the next room, while we waited for the funeral home to come get her body. Isn’t that disgusting?

How could we eat with her right there?

Then, over the next week, the planning of the funeral and the stress of what to wear, what to say, kept me in a knot of stress and agony, actual physical agony. The night before the funeral, my husband and my best friends sat with me in my childhood bedroom as I lay on my side, writhing with stomach pain. I hadn’t eaten all day.

After the funeral, there were the sandwiches again. Again I ate. I felt fine, physically. Emotionally, the grief was mostly peaceful. I told people it felt hopeless. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t bring her back. I was sad. But there was a feeling of peace. I guess that’s acceptance, but it’s more like surrender. It’s like giving up. I don’t yield to a religious higher power per se, but I surrendered to a higher power. There is no higher power than death, right?

It’s the same, now. I can’t save anyone, except by staying home. I can’t go to work since there’s little work to do, so I write, read, play with the kids, watch TV. It feels a lot like that time after my mom died, when the funeral was over and the friends were gone, and my sister and I stayed five weeks, or four weeks. I can’t remember exactly. Like now, the time stretched and shrunk until it meant nothing. We stayed and helped my dad. We helped by ... doing nothing. We were there. He fed us. We watched TV. It was relaxing, almost.

You’re going to say I’m depressed. Of course, I’m depressed.

I don’t miss that scrambling feeling.

I have to say, though, I don’t miss that scrambling feeling. Before this whole disease was really real to us, but not long before the schools closed and we were sent home, I told a friend I felt like I could never catch up. I was always driving, rushing, late, behind, under-prepared. I told her I sometimes felt like I was in the bottom of a well and I thought maybe I could climb out if I tried really hard. A fellow mom of two, she nodded and agreed that she felt the same.

Will this change me forever? Oh, yes. Will this change my behavior when we get out? I don’t know. Right now, it feels impossible that I may someday drop the kids at school, go to a play, complain about a child’s bounce-house-themed birthday party, hug my extended family. It feels hopeless.

While it feels this way, while I know there’s no end, I have to hope I can recapture the peaceful feeling once I re-enter my busy, fast-paced world again.

I always thought it was very odd that people say “rest in peace” to the dead. It’s us, the ones left behind, for whom they should wish peace.

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