After dodging the Corona Virus for two and a half years, it caught up to me. I should mention, I am quite certain that I was an early Corona Virus host in late January of 2020. I’d participated in my then company’s annual meeting in Nashville, TN.
Colleagues traveled from every coast and by the time I returned to Maryland I was dead in the water. I didn’t know what hit me, and no, I didn’t test for COVID as I didn’t even know about the virus at the time. I just powered through the aches, pains, cough and fatigue that took over my body for a few weeks while wondering what was wrong with me. Then the news of COVID hit and I sort of guessed I’d contracted it along with a few of my fellow sales leaders, one in Dallas and one in LA who’d had the same debilitating symptoms for weeks after the conference.
Until a week ago, I had managed to stay below the radar. I was vaccinated and boosted and all the good stuff. When I spoke to the many folks in our lives that had contracted the virus, the feedback was pretty consistent:
“It’s like a crappy cold” or “It’s like a short flu” or “I can’t tell if its allergies or COVID.”
Then, when I tested positive after returning from vacation, I almost welcomed it. I knew everything that I could expect: a crappy cold, a short flu, or something like rotten allergies. I had a sense of knowing we will all have it at some point, maybe multiple times and I was grateful not to have been sick while traveling. I figured it was ok to get it out of the way, and cleared my calendar for a few days. I planned to be back at it by mid-week.
But it hasn’t been a crappy cold, a short flu, or allergies. It has been miserable. I sweat through my clothes and my bedding to the point of turning into a prune. I could not stand up. My body was excavating everything possible in response to the viral invasion. My ribs hurt. My hips felt like someone was pounding nails into them. I couldn’t form much of a sentence let a lone move.
I was scared and sad, thinking of all the folks who had died feeling worse than I, which was hard to imagine since I felt so terrible. I thought of how they died alone, without their loved ones by their sides. The sicker I got, the less I thought about others and the more a different narrative started to take shape. It sounded vaguely familiar:
“Ugh! Why do I have to get so sick? What is the point of vaccinations and boosters if I am this sick? That’s what I get for trying to take a vacation. What was I thinking? A cruise? Really? What a stupid decision…” and on and on.
You get the point. It was a self-bombarded sneak attack that once again convinced me that I get the shit sandwich while others eat filet minion.
But several days into my less-than-conscious existence, it dawned on me, like it always does when I get around to being present (yes, even I let meditation and yoga fall by the wayside when I was too sick to do it.) I realized something. It occurred to me that this toxic virus has a lot in common with grieving.
For example, I assumed others had it down pat, that it would be the same for me, that I would process it and get on with my task lists. I looked to the dozens of people I know who have had the darn thing and what their symptoms were and thought my illness was the same. I saw how quickly friends rebounded, or even complained of the boredom that goes along with the diagnosis, having to quarantine and stay put.
Meanwhile I was still soaking the sheets with feverish sweat, “shedding” the “viral load” (what does that mean anyway?) and unable to stand without falling from the extreme vertigo. I was not a candidate for any of the specialized medical interventions available. Shocker.
Then it hit me. My illness is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else, and therefore I should not be looking around for “best practices” on recovery. I had to listen to my own body, ask for help, give thanks for all the help that miraculously showed up (especially regarding Zach’s care) and let it emerge and take shape at its own pace.
And this is the way grief also presents: It’s mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. And therefore I should not be looking around for “best practices” on recovery. I have to listen to my own heart and turn inward to let it emerge and take shape at its own pace. Just because someone else is processing loss in a particular manner, does not make that approach right for me.
It’s not wrong. Not good or bad. It’s just mine. Different. Painful. Exhausting and uniquely intimate to navigate, experience, and release when the season passes.
Maybe the Theraflu, steroids, antibiotics and Gatorade have my brain still foggy, or, maybe, just maybe there is actually a connection, between these two unfortunate states that have befallen me. Maybe that connection is a choice, to welcome the nasty virus, and welcome the pain of grief, so that they can both be on their way, until next time.
Maybe I can minimize the suffering by resisting the urge to be angry and making it worse. Maybe the choice is one of collaboration instead of resistance. Maybe the choice to participate in life, no matter how much vomiting and tears that may result, is the choice to feel it all. And having worked very hard at arguing with reality in both situations, I still feel horrible, my children are still deceased and I can still thank God that I am breathing on my own, and am not dying myself, and that humankind is sheer perfection.
With deep honor and respect, I also want to recognize the hundreds of thousands of people who have died and didn’t get to be with their loved ones.
Covid, Grief, Life… like it or not we are all in this together. Until we are not.