Happy New Year! Doesn’t it seem odd to say that? Perhaps the best we can say about 2021 is that is not 2020. With the rest of humanity, we, the bereaved families of COPE, are starting 2021 in the midst of an almost universal shared grief and fear. Yet, I find myself already making promises to myself: I will use my stationary bike more, I will clean out my closets, I will have more Zoom calls with friends and family, I will continue to wear two masks, I will continue to give COPE my all. But I think there is more to resolve to do during this very long winter of our lives.
I was in the middle of my course work for my doctorate when my son was killed. Although I went back to work a couple of weeks later, when I went back to school all I could do was show up at class, cry, and feel the weight of my sorrow on everyone in the room. I took leave for the year and when I began again, the following fall, I felt much stronger. That is, until the end of October, when I was hospitalized for 12 days with a dangerous infection. It took weeks to recover at home and it was months later before one of my doctors told me how dangerously sick I was. I wondered if my grief, having overtaken my life, had hijacked my body and health as well.
I was a researcher and I looked for information on the impact of grief on the body. I thought I had the “effect on the mind” part pretty clear, but what happens to us physically? Was the rest of my body screaming for help?
Yes, our bodies do grieve. From the perfectly named “broken heart syndrome” to our stress responses, our grief can take a toll on our health. This awful pandemic has given the media permission to talk about bereavement, opening the door to larger discussions about the impact of grief, trauma and stress. This year, we may need to pay more attention to ourselves and those we care about. Make your resolutions and join us for our virtual Zumba classes, or meditation and stress reduction groups, and art and writing workshops. Join so you can meet new people. Sign up so you can help someone else. If nothing else, our generation and those to follow, have been reminded just how interconnected we all are. We need each other.
2021 is a year where our planet may need to rebuild itself. Let’s do a bit of our own rebuilding, getting safer and stronger. Let’s do it for our families, friends and those we love. Let’s do it for our neighbors and communities. Let’s do it to for COPE.
Stay safe, stay connected, and may we all have a new year filled with safety, happiness and health.