Opinion | We’re All Grieving. This Is How We Get Through It.

At some point, probably every single one of us will know at least one person who died from coronavirus. I have been in self-imposed isolation with my husband. We are part of the at-risk population. I think we are, many of us, experiencing a deep sense of anxiety. It’s not just about the physical death. I think it’s also the death or the loss of the world that we’ve known. The loss of a sense of predictable future. Life is lived in the details. So when people mourn, or grieve, or experience losses, and they say, I had this trip planned, I had this talk planned, I had this date planned, you don’t know the meaning behind the event. One person just says it was a date. And you think, oh, a date. But behind that date may be years of loneliness that we’re finally, hopefully, maybe going to change. And it’s that what people are mourning. They’re not just mourning the event. They’re experiencing the grief over what that event meant or means for them. There’s one more grief, it’s the loss of touch. I mean, you know, there’s this video on social that has just gone all over the world with this father, and his little son is running over to him. The father is telling him, don’t touch. People’s history with loss, with anxiety, with fears, with grief, with unresolved mourning, all of that comes to the surface. I have a son who, he started school was 9/11, and he finishes with the last semester of coronavirus. And he wanted to go to New York City. And I’m thinking, this is, this is trauma coming back. I am a child of two Holocaust survivor parents, who are the sole survivors of their entire family. I kind of got trauma with mother’s milk. I actually am the perfect person for denial, because I often feel that I live in a state of what is called in my jargon, counterphobic. Meaning I’m so terrified that I sometimes live as if I’m fearless. But everyone saw that image of those trucks in the back of hospitals in New York City. This is where we are putting the bodies. This is terrifying. I don’t want to be that body. And look, here in the small towns in upstate New York, the cemeteries are literally in the villages. They’re all over. Death was part of the living. And we have moved death further away. We try to prolong life at all costs. We avoid death. And suddenly, it is much closer to us. We are seeing it, we are smelling it, we are anticipating it, and we are fearing our own and that of our fellow citizens. That sense of loss that we currently have, you can’t help the person who is sick, you can’t say goodbye to the ones that are in the hospital and that may not come out. I have written a lot about eroticism, but not in the narrow sense of sexuality. I speak about eroticism as life force, as aliveness, vitality, vibrancy. That power that functions as an antidote to death or deadness. It’s OK for people to talk about other things, to laugh, to actually laugh out loud with some of the videos that are circulating that are just so funny. The one with the guy who puts oil on the floor, and he’s pretending that he’s on a Stairmaster. And there is the one with the guy who’s dancing salsa. [MUSIC PLAYING] But with his hand on the mirror as if he’s holding his companion. “There is laughter in hell,” is one of the things my father always used to say. You know, it gives you distance. It gives you perspective. It gives you a sense that you’re not completely at the mercy of. It’s OK to laugh. I am the more anxious one amongst me and my husband. And, you know, on occasion, he’ll just come up with a good joke, and it’s just such a relief. We have our 35th wedding anniversary this week, and we decided we would dress up and have a date. You know, and have dinner in our kitchen. It is still OK to celebrate in the middle of grief.

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