GRIEF MAY VISIT DUR­ING PAN­DEMIC

You are not alone, and I be­lieve there is a Com­pan­ion in your jour­ney

Calgary Herald - - FEATURES - SHAUNA CALD­WELL

This is the sec­ond in­stal­ment in a se­ries on grief by writer Shauna Cald­well, who lost her twin sons in an ac­ci­dent in 2016. Her pieces will ap­pear on the Faith page of the Cal­gary Her­ald on the last Satur­day of the month for the next few months.

Pass­ing the shop win­dow, I stopped cold, star­tled by my own re­flec­tion. Who is that stranger look­ing so tired, numb and dis­tressed?

Has this hap­pened to you re­cently?

Peo­ple are hurt­ing ev­ery­where dur­ing the COVID -19 pan­demic. Changes in per­sonal cir­cum­stances — es­pe­cially losses — have ush­ered in an in­truder called grief. It brings messy and con­fus­ing emo­tions. I re­spect and make space for those feel­ings.

Pick­ing one’s way through grief is a hum­bling and per­plex­ing time of self-discovery. Loss strips us down. It leaves a per­son won­der­ing, “Who is that in the win­dow?”

Cur­rently, the world is laser-fo­cused on how to pro­tect against an in­vis­i­ble virus that can breach and over­take our im­mune sys­tems. Obe­di­ently, we wear masks, wash hands, dis­tance so­cially, while at­tempt­ing to deal with this mi­cro­scopic men­ace.

Have you ever won­dered, though, how we are sup­posed to pro­tect our­selves from grief? Here, too, we are deal­ing with an­other kind of un­seen in­vader! It has ar­rived in tan­dem with lost rou­tines, iso­la­tion, can­celled plans and un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing work, fi­nances or health.

Ev­ery­thing was go­ing along just fine. Then we were iso­lated. Then work slowed. In­come stopped. Sim­ple daily rou­tines stopped. In­vest­ments plum­meted. Com­pa­nies shut­tered. School­ing be­gan at home. Stress soared. Things that once de­fined us have been taken away. It is hard to cope. Sud­denly, we catch a glimpse of that dis­torted re­flec­tion in the win­dow. How did we end up here?

We never re­al­ized how life’s rhythms an­chored us in a healthy way, pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity, com­fort and con­tent­ment. Bor­ing rou­tines or “givens” in life now ap­pear as things to be trea­sured! I dis­cov­ered this truth when our twin sons died at the age of 17. A few weeks af­ter the ac­ci­dent, I was in the gro­cery store fill­ing a bag with ap­ples. I froze as I re­al­ized that I don’t need all these ap­ples any more. I fled from the store in tears.

Help­less­ness is a com­mon feel­ing as­so­ci­ated with grief. The in­abil­ity to ex­ert con­trol over our cir­cum­stances is par­a­lyz­ing. Al­though life feels so out of con­trol and scary, you need to iden­tify ar­eas that you can take con­trol of — in a healthy way — while still per­mit­ting your­self to ex­pe­ri­ence those God-given emo­tions. Self-care: It’s back to ba­sics. Eat well, drink wa­ter, keep mov­ing or ex­er­cis­ing and get a good sleep. I en­cour­age you to ask your doctor for help if you are strug­gling. We need rou­tines and struc­ture. It will set you up for suc­cess phys­i­cally.

Be gra­cious to your­self, ac­cept­ing your re­duced ca­pac­ity to func­tion. Next steps: Though it is im­pos­si­ble to see very far ahead on the road, just keep do­ing the next right thing. Even while feel­ing pow­er­less, you can gov­ern your very next step. It is just one step at a time, and that is OK. Don’t get too far ahead of your­self!

Thoughts: It is an on­go­ing ef­fort to mas­ter the “thought-life.” Man­ag­ing thoughts can feel as chal­leng­ing as han­dling the gas pedal while tires are spin­ning deep in snow. A prac­ti­cal idea is to go for walks. Mov­ing the body and get­ting fresh air does won­ders for break­ing the mind out of the spin cy­cle.

Per­son­ally, I had to choose how to think about our cir­cum­stances that seemed so un­fair. Would I al­low this to make me bit­ter or bet­ter? What lens could I look through to kin­dle courage and hope? (We will ex­plore this topic fur­ther in a fu­ture ar­ti­cle.)

In our per­sonal grief, I knew that my faith would be put to the test. I won­dered, “Would my faith in Jesus hold me up in the worst of cir­cum­stances?” I feel that a faith that can­not be tested can­not be trusted.

“When a train goes through a tun­nel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the en­gi­neer.” These words by Corrie Ten Boom, a Sec­ond World War con­cen­tra­tion camp survivor, spoke truth that helped me cope.

As you nav­i­gate COVID -19 grief, with its losses and changes, keep ask­ing those big ques­tions: Who am I? What pur­pose do I have? Is there some­one who re­ally cares about what I’m go­ing through?

You are not alone, and I be­lieve there is a Com­pan­ion to help you in your jour­ney. Since the day of our loss, I pur­posed in my heart to trust the En­gi­neer — through the dark tun­nels and the in­tense emo­tions ahead, even on the days that I did not un­der­stand or feel any­thing.

Now when I look again at the re­flec­tion, I re­al­ize Some­one is stand­ing be­side me.

Please join me for a con­tin­u­a­tion of this ar­ti­cle at: www.evan­jor­dan.ca. Com­ments? I’d love to hear from you through the web­site. Next in­stal­ment in this se­ries on June 27.

GAVIN YOUNG

Shauna Cald­well sits at the me­mo­rial benches for twin sons Evan and Jor­dan Cald­well, who died in an ac­ci­dent at Canada Olympic Park in 2016. She is writ­ing a multi-part se­ries of ar­ti­cles on deal­ing with grief.

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