Sad & Grateful

I can’t believe how quickly days are turning into weeks around here. I keep seeing all these articles with tips and tricks about how to keep busy during the pandemic, as though everyone has enormous amounts of free time. Meanwhile, we’re busier than ever and I find myself wishing we had some more down time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly grateful that we’ve both still got our jobs, and in general I would rather be too busy than have absolutely nothing to do, but it is an odd mix of stress.

The company we work for has seen a remarkable surge in activity since the start of COVID in Canada, so the whole team is working around the clock to keep things operating smoothly. Meanwhile, we’ve also had to cancel our wedding and honeymoon plans, which we’ve been preparing for since early last year. There’s also the added stress of having family scattered throughout the country and feeling helpless that we aren’t closer to lend a hand to those who could really use it. It’s a lot to take in.

Easter weekend was a particularly rough one around here. It was the first Easter in my entire life that I did not make it home to visit my mum. It also happened to be her birthday that same weekend, which was even more heart-wrenching that we couldn’t be there to celebrate. It was the same weekend we officially decided to postpone the wedding, and we began calling everyone up to let them know. To top it all off, I had several miserable encounters with cranky individuals while venturing out for our weekly grocery shop. Hands down, shittiest weekend I’ve had in a long time. I went full meltdown.

I know these problems are petty in the grand scheme of things. I know things could be way worse. I know, despite everything, we’re in a remarkably good position and we should be grateful for what we have. However, something we all have to remember is that you can be grateful and sad at the same time.

Trying to look at the bright side of everything doesn’t instantly change your emotions. For instance, let’s say you fell down and broke your arm. You can be grateful that you still have another arm that isn’t broken, but it doesn’t change the fact that you still have one broken arm. It’s still going to hurt for a while, and eventually it will get better, but you’re allowed to sit with that pain and misery for a bit. You’re allowed to spend time nursing your broken bits back to health instead of ignoring them completely and only acknowledging the good that’s left.

Being sad doesn’t mean you’re not grateful or appreciative. The two emotions can be felt completely independently from one another, and it’s so important to remember that. When you encounter someone who’s feeling blue, you can’t just list off all the things they should be happy about and expect them to feel better. It’s effectively telling that person that their sadness is unwarranted. Chances are that person has already been thinking about how their situation isn’t as bad as someone else’s, and it’s probably making them feel guilty as well when they can’t just cheer up.

Instead of being told to look on the bright side, sometimes what we need is for someone to sit with us in our grief, look around, and say, “You’re right. This sucks.” We need time to embrace those emotions and to process them. We need to get angry. We need to cry. We need to feel miserable for a bit while we heal. In these times a little empathy can go a long way.

I’m far from suggesting that we permanently retreat to a pit of self-loathing and stay there for all eternity. At some point we all have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward. Just remember that it’s okay to take a bit of a break and let yourself rest up, so that when you are ready to get up again, you have the strength and energy to do so.

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