Until you lose a loved one, it is difficult to describe the process of grieving. There is no set amount of time or an established ritual. Some people seem like they don’t grieve at all but perhaps they suffer internally, while others navigate through all the emotions associated with loss, like depression or anxiety and you can see their pain for months and sometimes years.
Sadly, I have been through it already having lost my sister in 2004 and my mother in 2008. Each time it had a huge effect on me and changed me as a person. Both losses took me years to get over. On April 4, 2020 my dad passed away in Trinidad. I had a ticket booked to go home since February and one of the main purposes of my trip was to see my father. I go home every year and though he was out of our lives for many years, I have gone home to see him on my yearly trips to Trinidad for the past few years.
In March my oldest sister started to send us e-mails of my dad’s deteriorating health. Receiving this news via e-mail was upsetting but I prayed that I could see him one more time on my trip in April. With the news I got insomnia instantly and then in mid-March, the world shut down. I got an e-mail that my ticket was cancelled. I was very angry and called the travel agent who explained that Trinidad had shut down its border to international travel.
The reality of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the severity of it had not quite hit me yet. My job like so many others closed down and overnight the world changed but, the reality takes a while to set in. I was at a loss of what to do as I continued to only sleep for 1-2 hours a night. A few days before my dad passed, I called to ask if I could sing to him on the phone. He couldn’t really talk by this point and it was heart-wrenching because I had a similar experience on the phone with my mom just before she died. I don’t often talk about death and losing people because I find it all difficult to process; especially by myself.
Yet here I was again, losing another person but this time, in isolation. I felt helpless because I could not go to Trinidad and I was just home alone. I immediately deactivated all of my social media because I know some people close to me would know and might post about it and I am not into public mourning. It’s 2 months today since I lost him, Reginald Woods, and I am still trying to grasp this experience of loss. And while I am dealing with losing a loved one, not related to the coronavirus the world has lost thousands of loved ones because of it.
It’s hard to explain the grief I feel. I am trying to come to terms with my own loss while reading and seeing the loss of thousands of people and then in the past few weeks, the world has imploded because of unjust deaths to people of African descent. This is not a new story but now these stories are captured on cell phones and there’s video footage that is played out on the news. And so, the world is in pain. My grief is compounded and emotional. I am isolated with my own grief and trying to come to terms with losing my father while trying not to watch the news so that I don’t spiral so low that I can’t come out of it. I rarely smile and I have a few friends that check in on me, but there are many people in my life that don’t know, and I’m too tired to tell them. I have retreated into myself which is easy to do during a time of isolation and I pray each morning. I pray for myself and my healing, I pray for the world and all those affected by coronavirus and I pray for the protestors who are fighting for the rights of people of African descent and a change to the policing system and systemic racism.
I am a conundrum of emotions on the regular. I have had a few days where I felt okay and one day where I felt like me. I am able to work remotely, so I’m grateful for that but I think about this time of devastation and struggle and death for so many and I find it hard to see the light. I have not been able to write for 2 months. This is a difficult and confusing time for so many but that does not diminish our personal grief.
Covid plus protests plus personal grief, how many of us are dealing with this now? How many of us are struggling? Take the time out you need, find the support for your mental health that you need and turn off the news when you need to. Grieving without self-care can take even more of a toll on you. And trust I am taking my own advice. I have a few friends I’m comfortable talking to. I have asked for prayer. I pray. I am sleeping now and I cook and eat and do some work for my 9-5, but that’s about all I can do right now and that’s okay. I encourage anyone dealing with loss to give yourself permission to not be okay. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel though right now that light may seem far away, in time things will get better. Because the reality of dealing with loss and grieving is that the only cure is time.
Anne-Marie Woods aka Amani is a Creative Consultant, Poet, Playwright, Arts Educator, Performance Artist and Creativity Career Coach who is of British Origin, Trinidad heritage and spent her formative years in Nova Scotia. Now, based in Toronto she worked at CBC Metro Morning, is a winner of the Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in Entertainment and has had 2 of her plays professionally produced. For more information please go to her website www.imaniartsbiz.com YouTube: Amani Live IG: @Amanisvibe