A Second Wave of Grief

I’ve heard a lot lately about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus. Expert opinions vary on this, but the consensus seems to be the same: No one knows what to expect as we move forward. COVID-19 is a novel virus, and so far, it’s ravaged and shaken this country in a way that many of us haven’t seen in our lifetime.

As the lock down continues, though, there is one thing that is certain: A second wave of grief.

I’m 33. Most people around my age have joined a gym or have started a workout plan with all the best intentions. We go into these activities with an attitude of action and determination. We make it our goal to embrace and smile through “the suck” that comes with a major lifestyle change. We spend our money on the items we need to attack our goals full force. We vow not to give up. And then…things become…well, old. The novelty wears off. Eventually, we find ourselves with less and less motivation to carry on.

In a lot of ways, the infamous 2020 lock down isn’t any different. When we saw what was coming, we geared up. We produced a vault of projects, crafts, and activities for ourselves and our kids. We made forts in the living room. We made homemade clay from things like conditioner and cornstarch. We took selfies donning our newfound fashion statement: the mask. We attended virtual happy hours, virtual yoga classes, virtual story times…

But in the back of our heads, we did all of this with some kind of understanding that this time would come to an end. Over a month later, here we are, still sitting inside and realizing that our “lock down vaults of fun and productivity” have nearly run dry. Suddenly, no one wants to play board games. Our kids balk at the idea of making yet another fort or attending another virtual school “meeting.” Cleaning another cupboard doesn’t feel quite as cathartic as it did three weeks ago.

The possibility that our jobs won’t be around or are drastically changing becomes a reality.

In other words, this isn’t as temporary as we originally thought.

I remember when this started. I cried the kind of tears I’ve only cried one other time: Through my bout of postpartum depression with my first child. Anyone who has gone through this understands these kinds of tears: Sudden and uncontrollable.

A few weeks ago, I grieved the people who lost their businesses. Their loved ones. Their sense of self and sense of freedom. I clung tightly to Governer Mike DeWine’s promise that “the sun will shine again” as I gave in to my tsunamis of tears.

And eventually, I accepted the reality and settled in. I buckled up and told myself that things would be different but that my family and I would make it through the lock down over the next two weeks. Two weeks turned into three. Three turned into four. We crafted. We created. We watched Disney+. We clung to hope and we hung on.

The reality is that we are still sitting here. This is necessary. I fully agree that we should still be sitting here. And with that understanding and realization comes a second wave of grief.

This loss feels even greater this time around, and all of us need to accept that we are not going back to what we considered “normal” anytime soon. I watched spring races cancel, now summer races, and I fully expect to see fall races cancel or come out of their events with low registration and revenue. People just don’t feel safe in large groups right now, and they won’t for quite some time.

I witnessed businesses close “temporarily” and friends file for unemployment during “this time.” The small glimmer of hope that business owners and employees would now be gaining momentum has gone dark, and it’s tough to imagine some of the best small businesses, non-profits, and hard working people become economic vegetables. So many businesses aren’t cut out to operate with half of their maximum capacity of customers and still make a living, yet operating at full capacity doesn’t coincide with necessary social distancing practices.

And schools. I have fully acknowledged that I am not crisis-schooling in the fall. I am not having mainstream school in my home on someone else’s schedule. I also don’t plan on sending my six-year-old into an environment where social distancing cannot be achieved even with all the best intentions and scientific data and measures. Have you ever tried keeping kids away from each other? Good luck. And what a stressful situation for our children who can’t hug or hold hands with their bestest of friends.

As a teacher by trade and someone who has considered homeschooling in the past, I am confident in my ability to educate my child beyond state standards. I know I can do this, and my flexible profession as a part-time college teacher and freelancer allow for it.

My heart aches, though, for those parents who never wanted this role. Being a teacher is not for everyone; I say that in contrast to how much I love my job as a teacher. I don’t want to see parents choose between putting their kids in danger or quitting their jobs so they can avoid that.

So, here we are. As we begin to recover from the first wave of grief, many of us are undoubtedly hit with a second wave as we understand that what we are dealing with isn’t quite as temporary as we thought. It will take a while and a lot of tears to accept this.

We thought that maybe, just maybe, we could squash the curve and look back on this with a half-smile and a “wow, maybe we over-reacted,” comment. Perhaps even a chuckle with all of those news-article-commentators who called the media’s coverage a “scare tactic.” The truth is that businesses, education, recreation, and employment will be vastly different for a long time.

It’s time to buckle up. Again.

Hang in there.

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