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Can I grieve too?

A reflection on loss in its many forms during Covid, by Baptist church member Daph Appleby

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We’ve been so lucky during the Covid pandemic. We haven’t lost anyone close to us, we haven’t been alone in lockdowns, we have enough space to be comfortable, we have a garden to enjoy and to escape to, we have adequate pensions to keep us comfortable, we use internet and have friends and family who keep in contact and care.
Which is why I feel guilty to feel choked with grief at what we’ve lost through Covid and this terrible feeling that life can never be the same again. We see the statistics shown to us each day and feel for the families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. We see the struggles of those on the front line and we hear of people going hungry and children and adults being abused during lockdowns.

We are ordinary, unexceptional people, so how can we dare feel grief at our own circumstances?
The fact is that, for so many of us, life will never be the same again and we will never be the people that we were before the pandemic.
I’ve been involved in childcare for over 60 years, and we have been fostering for more than 40. We may have only been able to offer minimal service, due to our ages but were still able to offer a safe place in emergencies and felt useful and necessary.   That was terminated due to Covid as we were (rightly) considered too vulnerable. Retired after 60+ years in childcare – no fanfare, no ceremony, no ‘occasion’! A delayed ‘occasion’ just wouldn’t be the same.  
We may be honorary members of the Foster Care Association but no longer feel that we have much in common and there are new people who don’t know us and don’t have the long-standing affection and respect for us that we once enjoyed. We’d still be part of this if it weren’t for Covid.
My friend, Di, and I have been involved in backstage crewing for musical theatre for over 30 years and were holding on to our positions in the wings by the skin of our teeth, reluctant to be relegated to selling raffle tickets! We’ve aged in the last 18 months and doubt if we are strong enough to pick up our previous posts.
Dave, my husband, was a member of three brass bands before Covid (five brass bands a short time before that!). He never missed a rehearsal and loved the performances. But lockdowns and being ‘vulnerable’ has kept him housebound and he has lost motivation to practise and is not too confident about driving his car.
Things that made us feel useful and were part of our life and who we were, have gone – who and what are we now?
My cousins were planning their Golden Wedding Celebrations and a large number of us were booked into a hotel in April last year. The occasion was postponed till this year but still wasn’t possible. But, in fact, it couldn’t have happened this year anyway because my cousin’s health has deteriorated so much that she would not be able to cope and her husband is very much her carer. The last fit year of her life and the last year that her husband could enjoy activities with her was lost in Covid lockdowns and restrictions.
I plan to pick up my previous jobs in church but how able will I be? I’ve enjoyed arriving early to help put up tables and chairs for the monthly Seniors lunch, but am I still able to? And preparing the hall for the Mums and Toddlers group – can I still manage the heavy boxes etc and will my now arthritic feet cope? Supposing I’m not fit enough to be a helper at the Seniors lunch! How would I feel if it was suggested that I should be a ’guest’ – how much would I blame Covid for robbing me of this last year before my health and strength reduced?   
So oldies like us may grieve that Covid has deprived them of this year and a half and left us all as reduced people, less able, some with increased infirmity and unable to turn the clock back. But there are so many other groups of people – young parents unable to truly enjoy the first year of their child’s life by socialising and being reassured by their peers or family members. The little ones have lacked the stimulus of others to encourage language and they may be distressed at the sight of outsiders as they have only known their close family. Parents may be grieving at the loss of this year in their child’s life and development. Other children may have missed out on education and they and their parents grieve for their lost opportunities.
University students are studying in their bedrooms at home and not experiencing university life, school leavers have been denied the Prom occasions of other years, young people are facing A-level exams and they may not have had the previous experience of taking their GCSEs to prepare them for these big state exams.    
All of us may grieve about the people we have not had contact with and the time that has gone by and changed them into different people. Some old friends may have developed disability or dementia and be quite different to the people we once knew. Little ones may have grown without knowing us and we may find it hard to relate to them after this year and a half.
I am so grateful that God is with me, that I need never feel alone and He travels with me through this strange world, giving me the strength to look ahead. But I think it’s ok to feel grief at what we have lost and that it needs to be acknowledged.
This is, no doubt, the tip of an iceberg and is probably reflected in the vast number of mental health issues which we hear about at present. Everyone has their own story of grief and pain although they may not actually recognise it as such and may feel unjustified in admitting it in comparison to the major issues of so many. I’ve met a woman in her 50s who has been in lockdown alone and who finds herself unable to talk and converse through lack of practice. Another friend who was a confident driver and is now nervous about driving to the other side of town.   
There are so many ordinary, unexceptional people who need permission to recognise, acknowledge and grieve after this not so ordinary year and a half.

Image | Sixteen Miles Out | Unsplash

Daph was baptised as a believer at age 14, and has followed God ever since, wondering what is round each corner. Trained as a State Registered Nurse, she has also served as a Residential Child Care Officer, and has fostered children for the past 40 years, together with husband and friend Di.

She is a member of Newbury Baptist Church. At age 80, she still wonders what is around every corner.



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Baptist Times, 19/05/2021
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