Grief is a Bird

no crying over spilt chili oil

I’ve said it before, but grief is a bird. It’s a bird that comes and goes as it pleases. It can be unpleasant. Have you ever fully and truly welcomed grief? Culturally, we’re taught not to be sad. Hide your emotions in public spaces. (Though, I feel I’ve seen more than one list on the best places to cry in public in San Francisco. So, it’s debatable.)

Culturally, grief is taught as something to bottle up and avoid. Forget in your metaphorical liquor cabinet or pantry for a few years, or until you move. Unpack it for a funeral and for when dying is an occasion. Just power through your day-to-day and keep busy, lest other people think you’re actually a sad and unpleasant person to be around. Present your best possible version of yourself, especially on the social platforms. You know, that which is supposed to emulate real life. But what about the cumulative sadness due to long term isolation?

Have people not thought about the long-term effects of COVID, and I mean beyond the virus itself, but the collective grief undoubtedly burrowing in our consciousness? The restrictions that wedge their way between processing grief and death, but also celebration and joy. Faultlines crusting between us and our loved ones when they need us the most.

Recently, I read of the passing of an acquaintance from our community. Someone I didn’t know well but met at an event, shared a trail with. Per my curiosity, I scrolled to the bottom of the comments of the news article. The sad reality is there are few to none nice comments from strangers online, maybe because snarkiness is exponentially emboldened when identities are scrambled behind a pixelated screen. As I asked a friend, do you ever judge yourself for grieving the death of someone you barely know?

Another friend made the point that the longer this drags on, the more personal it will feel, the more people we know who will be affected. I personally know many (young and old) people who have gotten sick, or have lost loved ones to the virus. Even with many states beginning to reopen, I don’t think many of us can easily snap back into living the way we were. (Plus, how simple will it be to unsee the display of white supremacy we saw earlier this month at the nation’s capitol?)

Maybe, we don’t want to.

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