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Grief and Fear in a Plague Year - 07/23/2020

C.S. Lewis, writing in his moving memoir, "A Grief Observed," about his wife's untimely death from cancer, said, "I didn't know that grief felt so much like fear." As I have moved shell-shocked through the three weeks since mu pug Clara died, I realize that my predominant emotion certainly has felt like fear. I feel grief, of course, for the loss of her presence at home and her companionship on most of my errands, and I grieve the absence of our trips to the dog park to see friends and other dogs. I grieve for the loss of having a reason to get up early in the morning, and someone to greet me at the door when I get home in the afternoon. But I feel afraid, too - afraid that I will never get over losing her, or forgive myself for letting her be euthanized (even though logically I realize that she was very sick and that a natural death from her illnesses would have been horrible); that I will never love anything as much as I love her; that the Rainbow Bridge is just wishful thinking and that II will never see her again. I've even begun to feel afraid to sleep in the dark, and I've started sleeping with the light on since she died.

I think grief and fear are the predominant emotions I feel about the Pandemic, also: grief at the loss of my favorite job, substitute teaching; the loss of freedom to go out as I please, to eat, to shop, to play; the loss of favorite activities, like movies in the theater, museums, and live theatre; grief for the over 140,000 Americans who have died so far from this terrible disease. I am afraid that the Pandemic is not anywhere near over; that our government has no clue what to do about ending it and getting back to "normal," whatever that means; that in spite of their incompetence, the current administration may win another term. I feel angry too: anger at the bungled US response to the virus; anger at people who still support the current occupant of the White House; anger at people who still refuse to wear masks; anger at people who insist the virus is "hype" or a "hoax." I have a friend in Florida who apparently has the virus (although she is still waiting on her test results after a week, and her doctor says not to trust the results because of the high number of false positives, which also makes me angry). She is suffering with a very real disease. Although I also don't know for sure I had the virus back in April, what I had was unlike any other disease I've ever had, and it kept me in bed for three weeks. And I had a mild case. It's real, people.

My problem is, I don't know what to do with my grief and my fear over COVID. With Clara, I took steps. I cried a lot, screamed a lot, talked to her spirit about how much I loved and missed her, wrote about her, and set up a memorial in my home with her ashes, pawprints, framed condolence letter from the vet, and several favorite pictures that I framed. I got rid of all of her things that I no longer needed, keeping her pink vest and purple leash and a few favorite toys. All of this is helping me move on. I'm also bringing in my next doggie to join me in my home. I'm picking up Elle, a two-year-old chihuahua-dachsund mix ("chi-weenie," aka Mexican hotdog), on Saturday. She seems very sweet but has the same impish grin that Clara did. I"m looking forward to getting to know her and to have a little dog to take care of and sleep with again.

But with COVID, how do you cope with the anger, grief, and fear? I have educated myself about the virus and I think I know the risks. I'm wearing a mask everywhere I go (we have a mandate to do so in Pima County, but I still run into people who refuse to wear them). I'm not traveling, and I'm working from my car, so it is pretty safe. I have decided not to go back to substitute teaching this fall (should our schools reopen in August as planned). I am just not comfortable that eight hours a day in a classroom will be safe. I'm sad about that, but I am making steady money with DoorDash. I already got sick nearly every time I taught. I've been out on a few dates, very cautiously; we wear masks and exchange the briefest of hugs. I've postponed going to Florida to see my family indefinitely; we still can only visit my mother in her nursing home through a fence. She has not seen any of us up close since March. I try not to think too much about the future. But when I do, I fear that the Pandemic will kill millions, not thousands; that it will be a year or more before a vaccine is developed; that this might in fact be the end of the world, at least as we know it. I know Christians who are excited about the possibility that this might be the beginning of the "end times." I'm not afraid of the end of the world, but I can't think of it with anticipation, although I am a Christian. I do believe the world will end, for humans at least, but I'm not sure how. I think it will be because of something stupid we've done or caused, like climate change. It is not a happy prospect for me.

So here I am, alone with my emotions and nothing to do with them. The best way to deal is, I know, to try to live as much in the present as possible: "One Day at a Time," like the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan says.

It is easier to say that than to do it. However, dogs are wonderful companions who only know how to live in the present. They have no concept of a future, and have only limited memories of past experiences. So us pet parents focus on developing and following happy routines with our little canine friends, and give them lots of hugs and pets that in turn, increase our endorphins and make us feel better. I can't wait to get my new little buddy. Til then, I grieve for my Clara, and I fear for my country.

#CSLewis #AGriefObserved #PetLoss #PandemicFear #Coping #OneDayAtATime

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