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  • The Vail Project

Secrets to survival during coronapocalypse

Let me start by acknowledging a few of our new realities. We are all suffering. Some more than others, so I think we can agree suffering exists on a sliding scale. Parents grieving the loss of their child is higher on the scale than the parent who find themselves saddened by the fact that their 18 year old will miss his/her high school prom. Actually, those two belong on different scales. I digress. The media will keep telling you the world as we know it is ending. In many ways they are right. When the dust settles and virus has claimed its victims and we are all allowed to return to normal life....that life won't be the same as it was. Many people will be personally affected by a corona virus death, and sadly, I understand how difficult adjusting to that new life will be. But many more will be faced with a new world, one with a broken system. This is not news to most of us, but the emotional toll and the financial fall out will be. We are all faced with many challenges now, ones that we never anticipated, and many more that are still unknown to us. There are a lot of psychologists online comparing the loss of our normalcy to other types of loss and the corresponding suffering to grief. I'd like to take a moment and say how asinine that is and how a statement like that can only be made by someone who hasn't been affected by true, devastating loss and the grief that follows. Despite this poor comparison, there is going to be a need for acceptance. Acceptance of how the world, and our lives in it, is changing. Now, I am by no means an expert on anything other than my own grief and my own process of survival since the loss of our sweet Vail. But I have learned a lot and feel that by sharing those lessons it may be possible to help a few people through these difficult times.

1. Wake up and smell the coffee: Literally. Coffee is one of the last legal drugs afforded to us. Being stuck at home every day is a challenge in and of itself. If you are home alone, you may struggle with motivation. Why should I get dressed? No one is going to see me. Why should I work? No one will notice if I don't. If you have kids you are faced with the dauntless new role of teacher and full time entertainer. Stay in a routine. Whatever that routine is. Physically, start the day with coffee and go from there. Figuratively, do the same. Wake up. Be realistic about how your life has changed. For the short term and the long run. While it may be some time before we know the full extent of how our post-corona virus world is different; start accepting that it won't be the same. Take advantage of the huge heads up you are getting from the universe. You have at least 30 more days to stay home and work on this undertaking. It won't be as shocking when the restrictions are lifted and we all have to learn to adapt. Meditate on it, pray about it, cry or laugh; whatever feels right. Do yourself a favor and start this process now. When we lost Vail, it was sudden and unexpected and we were immediately thrust into a world that is completely unrecognizable to the one we lived in just moments before her death. Tomorrow, April 3rd, we will have lived 200 days without Vail. And the spinning hasn't stopped. I'm not sure it ever will completely. Acceptance of sudden change (or loss) is impossible to do in a short amount of time. Especially a change or loss as big as a dead child. You don't get to grieve your post-corona virus life...not unless it takes a life from you. Grief is too dark a place to go to. It's too empty for this trial. But you do get to acknowledge the changes and challenges you are facing and will be faced with in the near future. Prepare to face them head on, start now if you can, but if you can't, formulate a plan. Then have another cup of coffee.

2. Don't bitch and moan: It's almost impossible to remove ourselves from the influx of negativity these days. The news is full of it. Today's death tolls, regionally, nationally, and internationally. All the trouble the medical system is facing. The ugliness inside our political system. The financial consequences of the shelter in place orders. The list goes on and on and on. We are inundated with scary facts and horrific stories. So we watch, and read and post. And repeat. The anxiety and stress build inside us, quietly at first, and slowly it becomes overwhelming. You have the power to make it stop. No one else....only you. I admit that I have let fear get the best of me. Mostly because once you have been forced to live your worst nightmare, fear becomes a constant companion. Like death, fear walks beside me from sunrise to sunset and into the darkness of night. To be fair, I no longer fear things like the corona virus. I don't fear death either, at least not my own. I fear walking past Vail's empty room, or the spot on the couch where her body laid. I fear sleep and the tragic things that can happen when we close our eyes at night. I hold my breath every time I check on Aspen, silently praying she will move or snore before I have to touch her and press my face against hers to feel her breath. Most people don't live with this kind of fear. I'm happy for them. The apprehensive type of fear that our entire country is living with now is a heavy burden as well, just a different one. There are so many unknowns and the trepidation of death is at an all time high. Yet, there are so many ways we can mitigate this on our own. Start by limiting your exposure to triggers. For my non-child loss friends who aren't familiar with the word trigger: A trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. Right now, a trigger can come from anywhere. Social media and the news are our biggest sources of information, but they are also our biggest sources of triggers. Decide how much time watching the news is appropriate for you and your family. Then set a limit and enforce it. At my house we agreed to only watch the nightly news twice a week. It's enough to stay informed, but sufficiently limited to keep us from stressing out. Social media. Wheew. This one is tough. We don't want to feel disconnected from our friends and family during this time of isolation, but social media is a virtual vortex of stress and distorted reality. It is a hot bed of negativity. And you can't just focus on the positive posts. Wait, that's a great up Zuckerberg...we need a filter for our news feed: "Only Positive Posts." So until the Zuck calls me up and tells me how brilliant my idea is, we all need to establish some healthy social media boundaries. What, you say? That is impossible. Well, it certainly is hard. We are trying to limit ourselves to an hour a day. I break that up into three smaller chunks. Morning, noon and evening. But that's it. An hour may even be too much. If you are like me, you may need to self-impose further limits. I have had to force myself to stop arguing with people online. We don't all agree on how things are being managed. That's ok, we don't have to agree. But we do all have to accept it. That means following the guidelines and doing what is asked of us in terms of social distancing. Better yet, try to spread positivity each day, instead of negativity. I'm guilty of doing it and most of you are too. Let's do what we can to limit our negativity online and support each other as best we can. The blame game (Trump did this, the Dems did that) isn't going to accomplish anything. So just stop.

3. Establish Perspective: This will be different for everyone. We all have vastly unique life experiences. For some child-loss moms or dads, this whole situation may feel like a blip on the radar of life. For others, the added stressors may push them down the rabbit hole of fear and anxiety, increasing their already heavy emotional burdens. For the families living with corona virus loss, they are new to the grief/loss club and it is terrifying. The rest of you, take a moment to put your burdens into perspective. That doesn't mean compare your struggles to others. It just means be realistic about what your struggles are and how significant their impact will be on your life. For many, the financial burden will be substantial. For others, the toughest part of their day is being an educator to their children. In Denver, a local divorce attorney has been playing an ad about how to handle your divorce non-stop since the lock down was ordered. I mean constantly. This is so sad to me. Yet it is a reality that many people's relationships won't survive this much togetherness. There are children without enough to eat and many suffering no relief from the abusive relationships they cannot outrun. If you are struggling with homeschool or missing out on special activities or you cannot manage life without seeing your friends, its okay. All of these things are tough. But keep those burdens in perspective. How difficult is it really? Ask yourself that question every time you find yourself getting worked up. Find ways to deal. You don't need me to list out those ways; resourcefulness is a skill best learned from practice. Hone it now. Remember that while you wish you could send your kids back to school, there are many of us who would lay down our lives to be stuck at home with all of our children. Take a moment to count your blessings. However big or small.

4. Live with purpose: This may be the most important secret I can impart upon you. Steve and I live each day, one day at a time. Not because we are enlightened individuals (we are far from it) but because that is all we are capable of doing. Getting through today, without Vail, is all we can face. The future, with its infinite possibilities and time, is too much to handle. Right now, the future is unknown to all of us. Practice living in the moment. Focus on today (whatever day it is). Monday or Saturday, they all are the same now. They are all spent in the same place. Find some purpose; set a goal. It can be as simple as accomplishing a list of spring cleaning items. Organize your closets. Organize your life. Or, if cleaning isn't your thing, read a book. Read 20 books. Learn to draw or paint or knit. It doesn't matter what you choose to do with your time, as long is it has value to you. Draft your goals in two separate lists. One for today and one for the next 30 days. Live each day with the purpose of accomplishing that goal. Finally beat that video game. Master making homemade Kombucha. Trim your dogs nails. Make a list, cross things off. Acknowledge your successes. Accept your failures. Each day is fresh and new. You've got at least 30 more of them. Make them count.

Think of this time as your own personal star wars battle. You have to decide between the jedi and the sith. The light and the dark. Both are in you. Both are pulling you in opposite directions. The darkness wants you to be anxious and panicked; it feeds off your fear. The sith are self-serving and narcissistic. The sith code says it all: Peace is a lie. There is only Passion. Through Passion I gain Strength. Through Strength I gain Power. Through Power I gain Victory. Through Victory my chains are Broken. The Force shall free me.

Instead, look for the light. Feel the force in all things, It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together. Follow the jedi code: There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.

We may not be fighting for the survival of the galaxy, but in many ways we are fighting for our own humanity. The definition of which is as varied and unique as we are. Take a moment to look beyond your individual life, understand that it is but one life, among billions on this earth. And while it may be a tiny fragment of our society, size is not an indicator of importance or accomplishment.

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