Writing by Annabel Wilde. Illustration by Abigail Featherstone.
Why does grief feel worse right now? I was never prepared to experience the incredible loneliness of losing a loved one in the midst of a global pandemic.
For almost a year now there has been a constant stream of new, distressing information on the news every day. Grief and loss seem as if they’re around every corner, yet experiencing personal loss with the death of a loved one has never been so difficult to process as it is whilst in isolation in 2020. Physically isolating or distancing because of COVID only exacerbates a process which is already incredibly, numbingly lonely. Life has become stagnant this year, and my additional loss has left me feeling totally empty.
Social outlets are closed. Fewer people are allowed to visit and comfort me in my own home, and social distractions are rare. But I’m scared to stop moving, to put an end to “I’m OK, I’m keeping myself busy” and confront my loss head on.
Our bedrooms now double as our study spaces, creating such an intense environment that every waking moment is spent feeling like there is imminent work waiting to be done. I can’t escape the guilt of ‘taking time off to grieve’ as unopened books sit on my desk, watching me wallow.
As a student, travelling home to family is increasingly more complicated as local lockdowns change and public transport is affected. Knowing that the whole family is grieving together, comforting each other back at home, allows geographical separation to team up with emotional isolation. Soon, it all creates an environment in which staying productive and functioning normally is impossible.
And yet, there is so much time to be filled as I wait to travel home. Time which is spent alone, in my room, unable to do any productive studying, yet with nothing else to occupy myself.
My mind turns to all of those grieving in various, unique ways throughout this pandemic. Those who are pregnant, going through appointments or childbirth alone, and being informed of their loss with nobody next to them holding their hand. Those who lost the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one because of hospital or care home visitation restrictions. Those who missed funerals due to the risk of exposure. Those who lost loved ones to mental health and the distress of living in isolation.
The daily death reports have entirely lost their shock factor. Just a number on a screen as the news is read. I feel as if one more count towards the hundreds lost in a day seems so minuscule. Yet my world has been turned upside down with the deep pain of someone so precious being taken from me.
Grief has taken a new, lonelier form in isolation in 2020.