2021 was the year of “business as usual”, even though we had the biggest wave of COVID-19 and even more deaths in 2021 than we did in 2020. An epistemic harm, if there ever was one.
I, too lost someone very very close to me and a HUGE part of our everyday family. My nan. She didn’t die from Covid-19, but lockdown meant that we couldn’t be with her for 2 months ((she was in hospital for that time, after a massive stroke which left her unable to speak at all. This turned out to be a symptom of undiagnosed (but relatively asymptomatic until the stroke) late-stage pancreatic cancer)) before she died. I keep thinking about how scared & lonely she must have been. And all we could do was Facetime.
And I know that this reflects a vast majority of the population. So many of us have lost so much time with loved ones. Many who have since died or are dying – for whatever reason – and we know we won’t get that time back.
Now, I’m super 100% pro keeping people as safe as we can. (I obviously have an invested interest in keeping covid cases low as I am clinically vulnerable too). But I am not pro all of us – as a nation – all having lost something: a job, a home, a livelihood, a person. And society giving us no time, no understanding, no space, no language, no place to grieve. We all have to carry on, like we’re not missing something or a bit broken. I wish we had grief doulas.
In my year where I had to teach my first proper university studio-crit group, all on zoom, having never met my student’s once in person even though I got them to graduation. I had to run an election campaign as a 1st time, relatively unknown candidate in 2/3rd’s lockdown conditions, and I had to do my nan’s funeral in lockdown so we did the service outside around her grave instead, with only her closest friends able to come. I kept around 5 jobs going at the same time (all various levels of activity). Occassionally I have like a grief-spasm. Where a wave of it comes out from nowhere, for no reason. But goes almost as quickly and dramatically as it came. I get these same grief-waves when I read the news and government policies. No acknowledgment at all of everything we have lost. If we all stand so close to death and pain/suffering, collectively, like we have – we can not deny that we have not been changed.
So it was no wonder I went a bit quiet this year. I carry a pang of guilt that I’ve been fairly absent in a good chunk of my amazing friends’ lives, or not as active as I would like to be. Partly lockdown & that I still feel unsafe when in big groups, indoors. The in-joke is that I take 10 business days to reply a text (if you’re lucky). Instead, I had to find spaces of quiet to try and deal with the grief that I haven’t had space, or time, to deal with. I couldn’t do my normal running off for a roadtrip abroad somewhere, which is my usual grief technique. So I learned how to do it here, at home in the UK. A map exploring the spatiality of mourning.
This comic is all about this. I hope it will help you give yourself space too, if you see yourself and your own grief in these words.
Ultimately it concludes in a reminder (to myself, mostly) that if you pay enough attention to the present, you can see the future. You can learn, adapt, and allow space to be prepared for a world reshaped.
Thank you friends so much for your patience, support, understanding and love. It means so much to me. I hope I will be a better friend this year. With endless gratitude, always. Your friend, Smizz.