My Dear Pre-COVID Life
Haven Parrott, Transitions LifeCare’s manager of bereavement services, wrote this letter to her Pre-COVID Life and shared at a recent all-staff meeting (virtually, of course):
I remember the February all-staff meeting of 2020. There were lots of us packed together – standing room only – in the conference room. We were shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, taking for granted the gifts of presence and uncovered faces. Together we sat, unmasked and unaware of what was just ahead – COVID was not on the agenda that day, but pandemic life was about to become our present and our future, and life as we knew it, our past.
Grievers often find it helpful to mark the first anniversary of a loved one’s death by composing a letter to the deceased. Though there is no comparison in magnitude between the loss of a way of life and the loss of a loved one, there is grief associated with both. So in that spirit, I’d like to acknowledge the first anniversary of the death of our LBCs – Lives Before COVID – by offering this letter.
My Dear Pre-COVID Life,
I miss you. You left me suddenly, without warning. There was no time to say goodbye.
One day you were here, and the next day, you were gone.
And even after a year, your absence still seems surreal.
For weeks, months even, I waited for you to come back – I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that you were really gone.
I just kept thinking you’d show up and my life would be my life again.
I feel guilty because I know others have lost, too, some have lost much more than I have,
yet often all I can think of is what I lost when I lost you . . .
the future we’d planned for, paid for, pined for.
At first, I didn’t know how to live without you – I didn’t know that I could live without the stability,
the routine, the identity, the purpose that you brought to my days.
I didn’t know I could bear such a level of ambiguity, such existential anxiety . . .
And even though there’s a vaccine now against the virus that took you from me
I’m beginning to understand that there will never be a vaccine against uncertainty.
Losing you introduced me to a version of myself I’d never met
A fragile, insecure, pessimistic me
A me that was not prepared for the soul-crushing loneliness and boredom your absence exposed
I’ll bet you’re laughing right now, my dear Pre-COVID Life, wherever you are,
to hear that I’m bored, because when we were together boredom was not a thing.
You always kept me so busy. And even though I sometimes complained of being too busy,
I’m beginning to see now that I used “busy” like a drug,
a safeguard against being too much alone with myself
a socially acceptable exterior that kept me too distracted and exhausted
to interrogate my interior . . . my beliefs, my biases, my truest intentions.
Losing you stretched me . . .
Expanded my tolerance for ambiguity
Deepened my capacity to hold despair and hope simultaneously
without diminishing the full measure of either
Extended my capacity for connection beyond physical presence
Heightened my awareness of the suffering of others
And emboldened my commitment to bring comfort and calm whenever I can.
I know now that you’re never coming back, Pre-COVID Life.
I’ve stopped expecting it – started accepting it.
But I think you’ll always be part of me, and, I hope you’re proud of me.
Losing you introduced me to a level of vulnerability that, at first, terrified me –
but now, softens me, humbles me, reminds me that while I am not indestructible,
I am resilient, and I am still here.
I am still showing up – on screen and in person – charting a new normal –
A normal less focused on predictability and security
And more on gratitude for and cultivation of deep communion with others
A communion not dependent upon physical presence
But a grace and hope-filled connection made possible by our shared experience
of having lived and loved through this loss
–Haven Parrott, manager of Transitions LifeCare’s bereavement services
Haven Parrott is Manager of Bereavement Services at Transitions LifeCare. She is grateful for and passionate about the opportunity to support grievers. Haven and her husband, Mike, have four grown sons and two grandsons.
My daughter-in-law, Melissa Short, shared this. It made me look deep inside myself and realize that this is so true. I have felt ‘the change’ for a long time, but this helped me see it and accept it.
I think this is what I really needed. I thought I was just going stir crazy, or just frustrated, but I know now I have been in mourning. Time to start the process of healing and acceptance. Thank you.