Vulnerable intersection – Primal assault
We have spent time in the past on the blog talking about the primacy of breath—G-d’s Divine Presence. Most if not all mindfulness training begins with attention to one’s breath. The novel coronavirus, Covid-19, is a respiratory virus. In its most fierce expression it takes one’s breath completely away by a cascading cytokine storm and severe pneumonia that results. Drowning by Covid-19. The very thought of this pandemic assault strikes most of us at the very root of our emotion. So, an aura of fear appropriately surrounds Covid-19 and our very consideration of it likely does as well. It is very natural to want to deflect and avoid this, however the situation has many related dimensions that demand our attention. Today we’ll begin briefly considering one significant tangent: dying, death, loss, grief, and mourning.
The Covid-19 pandemic has in many ways redefined dying, death, loss, grief and mourning. It’s not like this is happening unbeknownst to anyone who is paying even a modicum of attention to current events. So, I feel as though a review of some basic legacy information about death, grief, and loss might be in order right now.
Please take a deep breath. One more. Good.
OK, the first thing we need to remember is that you, me, everyone everywhere, we are all going to die as birth is the first cause of death. Friar Roar recently shared (here):
The surprise of surprises is that although everybody who has ever lived in this world has died, for some reason, we think we won’t. —Hindu aphorism
Grief is simply the flood of thoughts and feelings we have internally when we experience loss. In distinction, mourning is the outward expression of our internal experience of grief, or ‘mourning is our personal grief gone public.’
Feeling all the feels
Losses and grief are cumulative and pandemic life conditions are producing so much loss that it is extremely easy to just get numb. Numbing (like shock) is a natural built-in coping mechanism in humans and it provides an important dimension of grief. Thankfully, the numbing is a transitory piece of the process. In times like these it’s important every day to seek opportunities to resist the numbness and find occasions to both cry and to laugh, to feel all the feels.
Finding expression and release of emotion is a key aspect of mourning our grief. Next week we’ll come back to an outline of loss/grief/mourning needs, however, as mourning is grief’s primal need, let’s begin with an example of an experience I had last week of openness and seeking to feel the feels in the midst of our losses.
Sports déjà vu?
So, I am not a fan of the sports re-run craze ESPN, Fox Sports, and other networks are engaging in the present absence of live real-time sports programming. However, last weekend CBS replayed a particular game that I knew would be an opportunity for me to feel the feels.
So, two Saturday’s ago [April 4] CBS replayed the last KU Jayhawk basketball game that I (and my brother) watched with my mom in her room at the senior care center. It was April 2, 2012, exactly one week before mom’s birthday, and it was the NCAA Final against Kentucky. As big KU fans, we watched that game with pride and exuberant ranging feelings for the Jayhawks and Jayhawk Nation. Re-watching that game created a space and provided prompts that sparked exuberant ranging feelings and catalyzed a good cry or two for me. Sadly, the result of the game wasn’t any better for KU and that thought, for reasons I can’t explain, launched me into a robust fit of laughter. Lots of healing feels.
Dying of Covid-19
Saying goodbye on Facetime? The isolation required means that dying of Covid-19 challenges all of our traditional ways of providing loving care and support to the sick and dying. The image above of the health professional appropriately suited-up in their PPE illustrates the isolating distance this virus puts between, not only loved ones, but even between medical professionals and those who suffer with Covid-19. People are finding innovative ways to care for loved ones as best they can. Still, these pandemic life conditions are adding trauma to the process of dying, and to those who love those who are dying. Sadly, something new under the sun, a new dimension of loss and grief.
Next week: we will continue and finish our brief consideration of grief in the context of Covid-19.
Please check out my Easter missive: Easter Apocalypse
[this post approx. 825 words (3 mins)]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).