Slowly, but certainly, I gained the courage to accept the things I could not change (it takes a lot of courage to do something different from what you’re used to).
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Khalil Gibran
After losing my father to a rancorous – but short – battle with cancer last year, I vowed that the year 2020 would be an opportunity for my family and me to start anew. In fact, at the end of 2019, I dedicated 2020 to be a chapter of anointing, signifying my fearlessness as I walk with Christ to navigate a new terrain that had previously left my family and me broken. My father’s absence left a gaping hole in our daily lives and there was really no normal without him. So naturally, when the year started, I was anxious to define what a new normal would look like for me, but nothing could have prepared my family and me for the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a scale of one to ten, one being not at all, and ten being absolute, I feel I am probably at two for how in control I feel right now. Nevertheless, I am guessing a lot of people will feel the same – which is hardly surprising, given what’s happening around the world now.
However, if you knew me at all (and maybe now with this blog, you will) then you would know that anything that required me to adapt to any change created very high levels of anxiety for me (especially learning how to cope with grief), which would explain the need to be in control or my readiness to stick to carefully crafted schedules because my plan As did not leave room for any plan Bs. But what is this anxiety I’m talking about?
“In their book Anxiety: A Very Short Introduction, Freeman & Freeman define anxiety as an emotion that is attributed to five basic emotions of fear, sadness, anger, disgust and even happiness”.
This means that anxiety has a lot to do with feelings, and how these feelings affect the way we do things. Sometimes, these feelings may be based on real or perceived events in our lives, from the small to the big things. That said, it is quite common that these feelings of anxiety would be compounded by the isolation that is required to keep COVID-19 at bay, and this was definitely the case for me. What started out as a virus in a single country, spread like wildfire across and affected thousands of people around the world. The chilling effects almost resemble the TV series called Containment that also deals with a mysterious epidemic outbreak and the subsequent enforcement of an urban quarantine. Generally, though, the consequences of this wildfire can be seen in the closure of businesses, schools, and shops everywhere in the country. Even more so, the sale of alcohol and public gatherings of more than ten people have been prohibited, and we are now inundated with the difficult news of large- scale and impending unemployment and of course, death.
On a much more personal note however, the changes brought about by the pandemic only seemed to amplify my anxiety: I was constantly overthinking about what if the Kid and I have contracted the virus? I am fairly certain that many parents, and not just the single ones, share my concerns for their children during this time. While I’m still learning to navigate a new normal without my father, my heart has no more space for any more death (but, whose is? And in any case, is there ever a time when you will be ready to lose a loved one? That’s the thing with emotions though – they make no rational sense if you ask me, but we feel them as deeply as a cut to the flesh). So as you can imagine, I lived, breathed and slept with my anxiety, and could feel the physical manifestations of it everywhere in my body, including in the increase of my asthmatic attacks. Yet, the reality of the pandemic woke me up, in a way. Even when many things did change for my family and me, it took me some time to realize and finally accept that I was not in control.
I never could be.
And certainly not of this pandemic.
Or, of the longevity of my father’s life.
Slowly, but certainly, I gained the courage to accept the things I could not change (it takes a lot of courage to do something different from what you’re used to). I then decided to take this time to prioritize my mental health during this unprecedented time. Of course, I couldn’t have done this alone, so having some of my family with me was definitely a huge comfort as they provided me with a lot of support and a sense of security for me (I use the word security here to refer to the need for us to belong as one of the basic human needs identified by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Without a doubt, it was their support that propelled me to settle into a leisurely routine that allowed me to work from home, but also to cook, and sleep (more) regularly. By this time I was also exercising intentionally (which also prompted a rededication to my yoga practice that I’ve almost abandoned since my father died) and started focusing on homeschooling the Kid, even though I have no expectation of becoming the perfect homeschooling mom.
So, even though the year 2020 is far from what I had intended, I feel like I have been granted the serenity to make peace with a few things: the grief of losing my father and the anxiety caused by not being able to control what happens during the pandemic. It is absolutely tough dealing with these kinds of emotions and feeling so out of control, especially for a control freak like myself, because I like to make plans for everything. However, this experience reminded me that no matter how much we plan, well, life has a weird way (talk about grand, even) of teaching you the lessons you need – like letting go (and letting God) and taking back your power to make the best of your situation. Although I still have a very long way to go, my experience during the period of lockdown has taught me that sometimes, beautiful beginnings can indeed come from the most difficult of circumstances.
“I know that sometimes it is difficult to talk about the realities of grief and anxiety to non-grieving people, but if you suffer from anxiety as I do, take little steps to. immerse yourself in the things that you love, things that you can enjoy. If this is still difficult for you to do, please seek professional help if you can”.
There’s always someone willing to help you deal with what’s going on, so be reminded that you’re definitely not alone.
What has your own experience been like during the lockdown? Can you relate to feelings of grief and anxiety during this time? How are you overcoming these difficult feelings? Your comments may help to encourage someone struggling with grief and anxiety!