You know that feeling you had last week? Or maybe it was yesterday? Or even right now?
I’m talking about the feeling that says, “I can’t do this anymore!”
I mean, maybe you haven’t had this feeling yet. Maybe you actually like this quarantine. Maybe you have a secure, well-paying job and a stockpile of food and no medical issues and no young children and a big backyard and a partner who is quarantining with you. I mean, there are ways that people could enjoy this time period.
But for most people, it sucks. And for many of my friends, last week was when I started hearing people say, “I can’t do this anymore.”
I get it. I do. I too have had this feeling.
First of all, every day is Groundhog Day. I get up, empty the dishwasher and do a little exercise and then it’s homeschool and digital learning for my students. We may eat pizza for lunch or maybe we have pasta, and maybe we swing in the hammock. But then it’s back to more school and trying to entertain three kids who haven’t seen their friends in a month. It’s figuring out what to eat and how to get that food from the grocery store. It’s the monotony of cleaning up messes and the boredom of having no spontaneous conversations with neighbors and friends.
But even for those of us who are healthy, it still sucks.
Last week was when I started feeling the weariness from many others around me. “How can we keep doing this?” people asked me via text and on the phone.
I totally get it, because of course I want this to end as much as the next person. I want the virus to die out or someone to find a magic cure right now. I want to go back to school and watch my seniors graduate and my daughter do the 5th grade clap-out on her last day of school. I want to hug my friends and stop worrying about my dad and my sister.
What I started to hear last week from my friends was something I’ve been feeling for weeks. “I can endure this,” one person said to me, “as long as there’s an endpoint.”
As long as there’s an endpoint.
I get that. I mean, all of us can do hard things. But I think we all also have a need to know when bad things are going to end.
I feel it too. The only difference is that I’ve felt it before.
In the early days of widowhood – and really maybe for the entire first year – I was obsessed with meeting other widows and asking them when things got easier for them. I was on a personal fact-finding mission to figure out exactly when my pain would end. I wanted actual dates – 6 months or a year or whatever. At one point, I remember standing in my kitchen and telling Becky and Michelle that I knew I could survive this pain but only if I could know how much longer it would go on.
Of course, grief doesn’t follow a timeline, and no one could tell me when things would get easier. In fact, most widows refused to give me a real answer about their healing timeline, because they knew that it was such an individual process.
Now that I’ve been a widow for more than two years, I do the same thing when people ask me for a timeline for their grief. When will it end? I don’t know. I do know that time does help overall, but I also know that week 60 of widowhood can sometimes be harder than week 10.
So when I hear my friends despair about this virus, I can empathize. I can understand how hard it is to not know the future. The only difference for me is that I’ve sat through a truly terrible time period once before. No – losing my husband is not the same as being quarantined in your house with your entire family. I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is this: facing something really hard is especially challenging when you don’t know the endpoint.
But as I’ve said before, things will change. Eventually, they will get better.
I’ll also say this: right now sucks.
I think we can hold both emotions, whether we’re facing a massive loss or a pandemic or some other sort of horror. We can feel like we can’t do it anymore and we can know that we will get through it. We can hold both of these things.
We don’t know the endpoint of this virus or of this quarantine. But I can tell you this: it will end.
It’s what I tell people now when they ask me for a timeline on grief. It won’t be linear. Things may get worse before they get better. It may take longer than you want it to take. You will still always carry some of that pain.
But things will change. Someday, it will get better.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.