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Eris Young: Finding Space to grieve


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A missive from Eris Young, our writer in residence:

What a mess of a month March was! But it is over. Finally. And I’m hoping that the month of April will give us a sense of normalcy, routine and stability - even if the new normal is something none of us could have anticipated!

I’m sitting down to start this blog post for the third time: each time my personal circumstances and mental state have been different and each time (though hopefully not this time) I’ve not been able to bring myself to finish the post. So I’ll try to keep it short this time.

I don’t particularly want to dwell on what I, or we, may have lost last month, what we may still lose, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re all going through a period of mourning, as well as one of readjustment, taking stock and coming to terms with the way things have changed.

We haven’t only had to get used to a new way of life: aside from any personal losses we’ve experienced, and there have been lots of those, we have all also had to experience the “death” of our old way of life, even if only temporarily.

The other day a friend told me we are going through a period of collective trauma. I hadn’t thought of it before but it makes sense, and I think it puts into perspective, and encourages empathy, with a lot of the behaviours we’ve been seeing: panic buying, obsessively checking the news, or shutting out the outside world to focus on ourselves and our closest loved ones because empathising with everyone else is too exhausting.

And in the face of all this trauma, death and loss, comes an existential uncertainty: how long will this go on? How much more will we have to endure? What will the world, and our lives, look like in six months? A year from now? From a life and career standpoint, we ask ourselves, are the things we thought we were working towards still attainable? Do we still know what we want? We won’t have answers to these questions for a long time. It may be months or years before we see the new shape of the world, before we can gain back our sense of stability and safety.

Our focus, energy and common sense have all been compromised by our trauma, and many of us (myself included) are only now beginning to recover. For those of us who lose people, who experience serious illness ourselves, who have had to endure dangerous or unhealthy living conditions because of being stuck inside, this recovery process will be even longer. This is all the more reason for those of us who can, to reach out, to care for each other to give away what we can spare, and hold each other - and the people in power - accountable for our actions.

It’s time to shop with independent businesses (especially bookshops!), to stop using Amazon, to sign petitions and lobby from home, to share resources with our neighbours and communities.

But at the same time, we have to be gentle with ourselves, as well. We have to forgive ourselves for the way we are coping. We can’t sacrifice our own wellbeing in service to some outside idea of productivity, moral righteousness, or the performance of “healthy” coping mechanisms. It’s okay to play video games, to watch TV, to stare out the window, to eat junk food, to shop online, to clean the flat instead of writing, to bake instead of doing the DIY we told ourselves we’d get done.

We need to give ourselves space and time to find stability, safety and routine. To grieve and to heal.

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