Grief and the Myth of “Back to Normal”

Grief and the Myth of "Back to Normal"

Myth of “Back to Normal” after COVID

We keep talking about “back to normal” and it sounds so wonderful. I so badly want to see and feel the life I had before this pandemic darkness.

But when I step outside and visit my old haunts normal isn’t anywhere to be found. I am beginning to feel like the idea of getting “back to normal” won’t happen because it simply can’t. With the 1 year anniversary of George Floyd’s death resounding and reminding us of the trauma, terror and grief that firmly settled upon us a year ago – I feel the definitive sense of being haunted by all that happened in 2020.

Symbols of change

Symbols of our changed times are everywhere – our faces are covered with them. Part of me thinks normal won’t come until triggers like plexiglass and masks are finally done. But so many of my favorite places didn’t survive the pandemic or feel impossible to visit with the parameters in place. This new world has another closed store around the corner and COVID remnants still litter our landscape. There will always be a pre-COVID and after-COVID, a modern BC & AD that we will universally understand.

Non-Death Losses

While I did not suffer a death-loss during COVID, the secondary losses of this pandemic have been so numerous and perpetual that grief is very much a part of my past, present and future. I think grief is a part of all of us now.

I recently heard the phrase,

“Resurrection doesn’t mean reversal.”

– Nadia Bolz-Weber on her podcast, The Confessional

“Resurrection doesn’t mean reversal.” This keeps bouncing around my head and for as much as I dislike it, I need it. As we return, the hard truth undeniable: that the deaths and losses we have experienced cannot be erased and “normal” won’t undo the loss of the COVID-era. Life as we knew it is gone, and it’s so sad. I have witnessed old friendships broken, felt the exhaustion of familial tension, grieved favorite traditions lost (maybe forever), closures of special places, heartbreak over cancelled plans, and mourned hoped for memories that will never be.

The world re-opening doesn’t undo any of that. When I walk out my door all of that comes with me.

If you’re just not feeling it

I don’t say any of this to temper the excitement of “normal” returning – but if you’re just not feeling it or there’s more disappointment and sorrow than you expected – it’s very likely because resurrection doesn’t mean reversal.

I wish I had fresh flowers and happier words that magically absolve all of this sorrow for each of us. But, as I am a student of death and grief – I understand the pain of the journey and the helpfulness of hearing the truth – even if it’s hard.

Grief is a transformer. It forever alters the people that it touches. When we consider that grief has touched every corner of our world through the pandemic, it is a small-wonder reversal isn’t possible. I hope to have more to say on what exactly is on the other end of this resurrection. All I know now is, we are in it together.

Our Hope

As the world resurrects, I wish you all a re-entry that is balanced and able to hold the joy and twinges of pain that arise. Remember, you’ve never done this before – go easy on yourself.

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.

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