As this weekend has approached, I have watched the 2021 Valentine’s Day challenge. I get it. Rather than going out and risking people’s lives, people are sharing pictures of past “dates” and “events.” And with this holiday, we come full circle into a year of Covid.
However, I wear several different hats. While I am divorced, I am also a previously widowed wife and mom to one of my late husband’s kids, one of our own kids, and one more with my ex-husband. Losing someone at a premature age is not the same as a divorce.
While I see one set of questions being asked on my main social media page, I see a different side of questions being asked in a sub group of women who lost a spouse at a young age. “When did you lose them?” “How long WERE you together?” Some of them have been there as long as I have. 20 years is a long time. But as anyone who has lost a spouse knows, this kind of grief is never completely over. The love never ended. Life did. It’s so different.
I scrolled through some of the posts. There are others who are veterans, like I am. There are some who are halfway as far as I’ve gotten. And there are those who lost somebody yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. Trust me, most of the first three years, at least, remain a blur for the rest of your life.
That’s when I realized something. One of the hats I wear is being a professional patient with a chronic illness and a looming knowledge that I could follow in his footsteps in a flash due to my own medical condition. I’ve lost a friend who has the same condition, as rare as it is. I’ve had friends come close. I’ve helped a friend grieve somebody they lost to Covid. Now I’m trying to support her as she has become a long hauler, sick longer than two months now. And I know people who have lost several family members.
I’ve had to learn how to come to terms with something called disenfranchised grief. losing people you have gotten to know very well, but mostly online, so that you feel like you aren’t part of their real life, and aren’t entitled to grieve. I’ve gotten used to that. Although I have to say, I wasn’t expecting the last one. And it’s different losing them to Covid with a vaccine on the way.
The thing I noticed suddenly tonight is that while I am used to losing members of my medical support groups, I failed to notice that my support group for people who were widowed at a young age has been growing at an alarming rate. It seems like the obvious, but it’s just not something I noticed. Until now.
So if you are posting the Valentine’s Day challenge, by all means, do it! Milk every second you can out of your time with the people you love most. Nobody understand that better than we do.
But also take a second, if you don’t mind, and say a prayer for the many people who are spending this weekend alone because their everything, their person, their reason for breathing… wasn’t one of the lucky ones to survive this last year.
Maybe say another one for those who are waiting alone at home, hoping NOT to get a call about a last video with their partner.
And maybe one more for everybody who has lost a child, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, a close friend, or other loved ones.
And maybe one for the kids who can’t go back to school without endangering their own parent, and those who have to go back to school, and may have to live feeling guilty for tragic results.
And maybe one more for everybody who has lost a colleague and thought it could have been them.
For those who never got to say goodbye because their parents or grandparents were in a nursing home and didn’t survive.
For all of the people working, whether you are a front line medical worker or mopping the floors in the schools. Whether you are a police officer who has fought the virus, violence and hatred, or a person who is high risk because of race and being disparately impacted, or socioeconomic status.
For those who have been vaccinated and are praying that it works, and for those who are desperately waiting for their turn to get it, and for those who are choosing not to because they are afraid of the risk of the vaccine than the virus.
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or a libertarian, or just fed up with what we have been through politically, especially in the United States, as if a pandemic were not enough.
Just say a little prayer for people struggling through this weekend. I am grateful for the fun day and week I’ve had with my kids. But not everyone was lucky enough to have kids. Some are homeless without their partner in a world where jobs are scarce and crashing with a friend is a much bigger ask than in previous years.
Then… ENJOY THE HOLIDAY! Every minute of it. Even if you can’t go out or do something that has been a tradition. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. If the last year taught us anything, it’s that.
Make today count. Make every day count. Before you run out of days to count. You aren’t just doing stuff. You are making memories. Memories that will carry you if you find yourself walking a path nobody should ever have to walk. Keep making them, and then make more! Make them every day until you run out of days, even if you make it to 100 years old together. Never stop making them. Because those memories… the memories you’re making… they are everything.