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  • Lara Krawchuk, LCSW, MPH

Sorrow in a Time of Social Distancing

It is early morning and I sit in my sunroom, alone. This feels familiar. I sit here a lot. It is a place I like to start my day. Before my family wakes up, I can almost fool myself into thinking life is normal, okay again, full of purpose, plans and promise. Normal feels so good!

Then I remember. It is over a month since we began social distancing. No real end in sight. The first week was full of anxiety. Panic really. Fueled by the caregiving for my mother who had undergone knee surgery the day before this Corona nightmare broke. Would she be ok? Would the professionals tending to her at home inadvertently bring in the virus? Would she get sick? How would I care for her? Should I stay with her or return home to my spouse and children? I stayed and she healed.

Worries about mom shifted to the recognition that I would need to move my entire group therapy practice and graduate school teaching online. I would no longer enjoy the beautiful office looking onto a park that I was so proud of. Instead I would use my computer screen to connect with anxious and grieving clients. I would no longer get to hug them goodbye, if they asked for this final offering of connection, on the way out of my office door. “I give power hugs” a client once told me. I like power hugs. How does one hug from a Zoom screen? I quickly bought a computer to accommodate my new reality. My new office. This felt lonely and this hurt.

Clients moved to Zoom, my graduate students did too. They learned to follow lectures about supporting clients facing loss and grief online while also navigating their own significant losses. Lectures felt inadequate, almost ridiculous. I worked hard to find ways to engage them beyond virtual discourse. Podcasts, TV shows, movies, YouTube videos. Anything to engage their minds, keep them busy and learning. Anything to help them feel engaged despite the upside down, isolated world they were now forced to learn in. Sometimes it worked, but only sometimes. Students were flexible, gracious, hard-working, but their shoulders sagged, their faces were so sad, eyes full of uncertainty. I longed to tell them it would all be ok. I could not. I did not know what to say. I felt helpless and this hurt!

My children, and this is where my deepest grief really kicks in, also moved to an online learning experience. The school I often call “my happy place” closed for the year. Teachers, many I count as friends, now heads on a screen. I could no longer stroll the beautiful campus or drop in for a quick hello. I could not marvel as the formerly chubby babies, many whom I met when they were 4 years old, morph into smart, kind, strong, tall, and confident, humans before my very eyes. “When did this happen” I said to them every time? They always laughed. I was so predictable. I loved it. This beautiful reality feels so very far away. I miss it and it hurts!

Most days my heart, sometimes my entire body, aches for my boys! They should be learning in classrooms, laughing with friends over jokes no parent truly understands, playing on sports teams with beloved friends and coaches, fooling around, falling in love, roaming our town for hours on end, making choices-good or not, and learning to navigate the world without mom or dad constantly looking over their shoulders. Instead, they are locked in a house fighting over who used the X Box more that day and eating junk food because it offers a sliver of color in an otherwise gray day. The joy of spring obliterated by the loneliness of virus flattening. The ache sometimes causes my heart to pinch and my head to literally spin. I fill to the brim with the loss of it all and it hurts. Oh how this one hurts!

These days the world is full of loss! This is a time of chronic sorrow. The kind of loss that has a beginning, but no clear end. The kind of loss that frequently gets missed, minimized, pushed aside or ignored. The kind we often fail to adequately honor and grieve. I tried to do this. Worked on leaning into the gratitude, keeping busy, looking on the bright side. I tried to ignore my grieving parts, told them to wait, stay quiet, hold on, do not overwhelm others. But it did not work. I could not make sense out of sorrow I would not touch. Ignoring it only hurt more.

My sorrows festered in the corner where they had been carefully exiled. Watched as bit by bit my carefully laid life plans unraveled, my assumptive world tilted on its axis. Businesses shut down, millions lost jobs, people I knew watched loved ones grow desperately ill and some died. People suffered a lot! Loss and grief was everywhere. I could not ignore it. My sorrow watched as I tried hard to be joyful and it grew bitter. It grew impatient and throbbed inside like an infected wound. It demanded to be known.

So, this morning, in the comfort of my sun porch on yet another cloudy day, I honor my sorrow. Call it out of its lonely corner and truly welcome it. “You are welcome” I say with an open heart! It nods and tears up and spins around in circles. It is not sure. Is it really welcome? Can it stay? Does it belong? In time it will trust that it is a natural part of all this, that its voice is welcome too. In a world of chronic losses; sorrow is natural even beautiful. It deserves to be known and I will honor this. This I know. This is the path to healing!

Today is cold, cloudy and rainy. It is a day custom built for honoring sorrow. For tears and sadness to roam free. I will do this. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe it will be sunny. Maybe joy and hope will come out to play.

Please know if you are struggling with sorrow that you do not need to stay silent. We get it and we are here to help. If anxiety, sorrow, trauma, stress, or confusion has you reeling the therapists at Healing Concepts, LLC are here to help. Simply reach out and we will find the most appropriate way to support you. Individual, family and group work is being done and a generous age of Coronavirus sliding fee scale is in place. 610-209-3111

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