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Grief, Loss, and Surrendering to What ‘IS’ During COVID-19

Confession: I cried all day today. Oh, and also...I’m still crying right now.

I am a teacher who lives in Illinois and our schools were just canceled for the remainder of the academic year. Nobody can be surprised that our trusted governors are making this call, as we have been gradually finding our way to this for a long time now. Quarantine, social distancing, and remote work/learning have become our new ‘for now’ norm.

An abrupt ending

But, that didn’t lessen the blow when I heard the news. At all. If I’m being completely honest and transparent, hearing it felt like I got punched in the gut. It was just a really final and all-too-abrupt end to a school year with my sweet third graders. An end without the end I had envisioned for us.

Grieving losses

I write when I grieve and though not all of our community members are school teachers, I would bet that we are all grieving just a little bit right now from so many abrupt losses. Maybe you have children or grandchildren who are struggling with the loss of the end of a school year. Or, maybe you were a teacher and can know the depth of this loss as only a teacher can.

It all feels so unfinished

Maybe you aren’t grieving in-school attendance being called for the rest of the academic year, but you’re saddened by not being able to see your special people, or lonely from a longer period of isolation than you’d like. Or, maybe you’re just feeling ‘something’ that you can’t find a word or definition for.

Macular degeneration is a loss of its own

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t need more loss in my life right now. I mean, I know there’s never a ‘good’ time for loss. And change, in general, often feels really difficult.  But, add all of the change that COVID-19 has brought on top of our often deep, personal grief over the loss of the lives we thought we should live before macular degeneration and we get some big, huge feelings. Am I right?

More on this topic

Right now, it seems like there are too many losses to write about, and honestly it’s all a recipe for anxiety, sadness, worry, and...pain.

This pain is grief in disguise

School years are more than just school years to teachers and their students. We spend more of our waking hours together than we do with our own families at home during the school year and in so many ways become our own little family.

The last few months of school, the end of our school year, is the time to see the fruits of our labor. We are supposed to have celebrations and clap outs and time to say proper goodbyes. And that was ripped right out from underneath us without much warning.

This type of loss seems familiar

It feels much like the loss everyone here at MacularDegeneration.net has felt at one time or another about our diagnosis and failing eyes. Our adult years, the end of our working years in life, are a time to enjoy ourselves. We are ‘supposed to’ celebrate our successes and a lifetime of hard work WITHOUT our sight being torn from us.

The life we envisioned

For many of us, these are supposed to be our golden years! The time we had planned to travel, enjoy our favorite things, and spend our holidays on the floor playing games with our grandchildren...along with our sight, and some of that is being ripped from us too.

Deep breaths as I continue to wipe tears from the day’s difficult news. This loss seems familiar, but maybe that isn't all bad. Since I've been here before, I have the tools I need to know how to handle it. That's a blessing in disguise.

Learning about grief

You guys, I am learning so much about grief and loss and I want to share some of my thoughts with you in hopes to help you through the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies some of the things you may be going through.

Don’t rob yourself of the hard feelings

Feelings are there to tell us something. Is it time to change something about our lives? Is it time to sit and just ‘be’? Can we take this time to be grateful for all we do have? It’s important to sit in our feelings for a little while and figure out what we are supposed to be learning from all of this. If everything in life were easy, how would we ever evolve and grow into our best selves?

The hard feelings pass

It’s important to also remember that this will not last forever, it too shall pass. That’s the crazy thing about life...it’s predictably unpredictable. Change is always on the horizon, so during hard times, we can always remind ourselves that better days are coming. There’s always something to look forward to. I know that I will eventually be back in my classroom with students, and we all know that even though our vision may be changing...we still have a lot of this wonderful life to live.

We just have to change our ‘how’

You see, we don’t have to change what we do in our lives, we just have to change our ‘how.’ I say this all the time. For example, I can still teach my class for the remainder of the school year, it just looks different. We can still read, cook, and spend time with our loved ones in spite of macular degeneration. We just use a different avenue than we used to. Here’s something to help put things into perspective. I recently read a quote online that said:

You are not stuck at home. You are safe at home. There is a difference.

Surrender to what ‘IS’

I also came across this quote today and it feels really fitting:

Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you’re living.

There are some things in life that we just cannot change. We can only surrender to them and make the next best decision toward living our best lives.

Andrea Junge

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