I walked to the office on Tuesday (doing the hard yards with Annie ahead of our 26 miles for Glass Door, the homeless charity on 3rd October)* The weather forecaster on the radio told me it was probably the last day of the glorious Indian summer we have been enjoying at the tail end of September. She was right, it was quite lovely, warm with a light breeze. I love this time of year, I think it is because from an early age it represents the start of things: new school years, college and career beginnings.

What was different this week was the curious mix of excitement for the distant echo of those changes coupled with another feeling which was a harder to identify.  The sense that so much had changed. So much was never returning. I realised, no matter how beautiful the morning and with no obvious reason not to feel good, I was experiencing a profound sense of loss.

I know I’m lucky and immensely privileged because my family, my friends and my business has been so lightly touched by the effects of COVID, yet all around me is evidence of the impact. However fortunate and mentally strong we might be I believe we are in the midst of a collective bereavement. We have experienced the sudden unexpected loss of our previous lives and we are faced with picking ourselves up and crafting a new life.  This is not easy.

The losses, aside from health and wealth, is the realisation that the collegiate benefit of working together has gone for most, the shocking anonymity of mask wearing has robbed us of our ability to express joy and compassion in our normal human interactions and access to those we love and need has been significantly affected.

Again, I’ve also been lucky to have been mentally robust most of my life but over the last six months I can sense and far better understand the fragility of other people’s strength in coping with this immense upheaval. My thinking that pulling yourself together is the solution has long gone. Managing the fear and insecurity that COVID has wrought is wider and deeper than any of us could have expected.

With the very real prospect that the precious and special time of Christmas this year is likely to be significantly impacted, just adds to a sense of desolation and despair.  Dealing with the grief for what we have lost is further hindered by not having access to the usual means to ameliorate this loss or disappointment such as gathering with friends and family, small treats to help us forget, planning holidays, etc.   

The fact is we are living through a bereavement and we need to recognise the five stages of the process. Stage one is denial and isolation which we had throughout spring and early summer. With Stage two comes anger which was beginning to gather momentum the longer the lockdown went on. Stage three brought the bargaining phase: ‘I’ll go without my foreign holiday provided it is just for this year’/’I’ll put up with the restrictions providing I can have a Christmas like no other’.

As we now know that bargaining chip hasn’t worked meaning it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have arrived at one of the hardest stages – Stage four – which is depression. Reality is sinking in and the recognition that our life before COVID is not returning is very difficult for many to absorb.

Hopefully, we will get through this period of depression and reach the final stage which is acceptance. Once we have acceptance we can start to rebuild and look forward even if restrictions are still imposed. By reaching a state of mind where we consent to receive and find ways to accommodate new demands on our life and routines means we will have arrived at that special place where hope can return and drag joy along for the ride!

*if you would like to sponsor Annie + me on our marathon walk for Glass Door, the charity for the homeless, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sara-pearson2020

Sara Pearson

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