I wrote about Covid New Normality in April, and I didn’t truly anticipate there being a postscript now, all these months later. I have tried very hard not to keep writing about the pandemic but the Muse will out!
Back in 2014, after my first book, Into the Mourning Light, was published, I named my new blog ‘Multilayered Musings of New Normality’ as I felt the title was a good descriptor for the posts which I planned to write. Little did I know then, that ‘new normality’ was going to pass into common usage to describe how we live our lives in, and most likely post, Covid.
It is quite annoying, really. New normality is a phrase beloved of we grievers, we people whom have lost someone dear to us, we people who come to know that we must find entirely innovative, different ways to lead our lives without those dearly loved family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours who previously populated our existence.
To us, new normality is the place we are dumped into by loss.
Our new normality, in the early stages, is waking with our first thoughts devoted to that person who is not here anymore.
Our new normality is to present a face to the world to others, that is acceptably typical of us as we were before.
We are expected to assume new normality almost overnight. Those around us want to see us making progress, resuming our usual mantle and demeanour, often long before we are ready to do so.
So what is the new normal of Covid?
Is it the wearing of face masks, the lack of spontaneity in our lives, the anxiety of what may yet be to come? Is it the restrictions that mean we cannot travel freely and socialise in the ways we used to? Yes, it is all those things.
But there is something extra, something positive that comes from the hijacking of the grievers’ favoured description. As a result of Covid-19, there are many more people who have gained a better understanding of what it is like, to be thrust from one existence to another. When the UK went into its first lockdown in March, we had our terms of reference stripped from us, overnight. We were denied access to our family members. We were effectively imprisoned in the cells of our homes, which quickly became places of refuge. We were suddenly bereft of the life we had known the day before when we moved around with ease, went shopping, went to places of worship, visited cinemas, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, beaches, cafes, schools and workplaces …
Our new normal started in lockdown, when those of us who are fit and mobile relearned to rely on our legs rather than our cars and suddenly discovered how enjoyable it can be to walk for an hour and get to know our locality, in ways we had not before.
Our new normal became helping our neighbours; joining local online groups offering mutual support, shopping and prescription collections.
Our new normal became spending more time focusing on what we do have rather than what we feel we must have.
The NHS Clap for Carers on a Thursday evening allowed some of us to have socially distanced, loud conversations with our neighbours from our doorsteps and offered a welcome distraction from being indoors.
We have quickly become accustomed to seeing face masks and queuing outside shops. We rejoiced when we could go and get a haircut. We counted the days we hadn’t been able to see our families and loved the time we could spend with them again, albeit without hugs.
(From a personal perspective, it is definitely not normal, old or new, not to have hugs. When will we be able to hug again? I am sure I am not alone in having sneaked in a couple of ‘let’s both hold our breath’ hugs with family and friends?)
But we have this lacy veil of fear overlaying everything we do, which is becoming tiresome and wearisome. We have lost the ability to plan with certainty and that is unsettling in itself.
Grievers, indeed anyone who has ever had issues with confidence, knows that anxiety feeds on itself and it can quickly become overwhelming. Seeking out help and practising whichever mindful activities benefit and calm us, can be a great boon in these times of shifting goalposts.
There should be no shame in admitting to worrying and feeling the physical manifestations of stress; no stigma to our saying that we need help, if that is the case. The many layers of grief within the pandemic, from the loss of connection with friends and family, to our inability to foretell the future, can feel like an overwhelming barrage of emotions. When anxiety escalates, we become familiar with the fight or flight response, and this has an undesirable effect on our ability to function normally and cope with what is coming our way.
I believe that Covid-19, with all its ramifications, not only exacerbates grief in the griever, but concurrently provides a better understanding of loss and its myriad experiences to the non-griever, so it is not all bad …
In a spirit of optimism, I am not going to change the title of my blog. New normality will always mean the same to me. It is the life I live in the mourning light, in the aftermath of loss. It is my life that contains optimism and joy and love and faith and family and friends and above all, hope for the future.
Hold on tight to whatever constitutes your own normality. Stay safe and take care, everyone.
Written in loving memory of James Edward Clark, born 35 years ago on 11 September, 1985.
Always in our hearts, especially on your birthday.