Acknowledging our Grief

I’ve been really busy the last six months. 

Acquiring food and necessities during shortages. Checking in with friends and relatives. Worrying about whether my parents were taking sufficient precautions. 

Setting up Zoom happy hours for friends and group meetings for industry colleagues. Restructuring our group offerings at iCadenza in the middle of the launch of Be Your Own Agent. 

At Helix Collective, the non-profit ensemble I founded with my husband Phil Popham, we immediately sprung into action creating a series of music videos featuring our players. I spent weeks overseeing our festival composer / filmmaker pairings while gradually postponing the live event further and further into the future. 

Next, we were restructuring a live recording session for a workshop into a series of remote recording sessions. Now, I’ve jumped head-first into grant applications – an occupation I’ve never had time for before – but now, without live concerts to produce, I find myself with the time. 

Not to mention spending countless hours trying to create a living situation that is more conducive to my husband and I suddenly working in our apartment 24/7

Busy but with too much free time. 

Somehow, I also seem to have more free time than I ever did in my former life.

I seem to be struggling with ‘weekends,’ a new concept to me since I used to spend much of Saturday and Sunday at rehearsals and performances. 

We had trouble filling our weekends with any activities or travel because everywhere we went around Los Angeles was so crowded that we didn’t feel like we were having any fun  – just running away from people. 

And I was exhausted. So busy but somehow with more free time. Frazzled. Not well-rested. 

And then there was the fact that I would hair-trigger cry. Anything seemed to set me off. It wouldn’t last long but it seemed like the impetus to cry was always there, just below the surface. 


The Cost of Denying Our Grief

Because I was in denial about the grief I am experiencing. 

We are all experiencing grief. Some of us for a loved one but many for losses that we may not connect with the idea of grief. 

If we deny that we are grieving, though, it will seep out into our lives in subtle ways. 

Exhausted? Sad? Driven to work but can’t seem to concentrate? 

These can be symptoms of unacknowledged and suppressed grief for what we’ve lost. 

Take a little time – maybe on paper or video, however you like to think – and list what you personally have lost in the last six months. 

What we’ve lost

For me these include

  • A feeling of safety in everyday activities. 
  • The simple joy of feeling relaxed on a walk in the neighborhood or sitting on the beach. 
  • Going out to the local Thai joint with my husband or friends. 
  • Stopping by my neighbor’s apartment for a visit in the evenings. 
  • Meeting friends for coffee
  • Going to concerts. 
  • Playing concerts. Going for lunch with colleagues on a recording session break. Saying hello to the sound engineers. Sharing jokes from our chairs in the woodwind section. Sharing a melody with the violins. 
  • Flying home to see family. 
  • Hugging my mom

Many of these losses will not last forever

There are many joys left in life and so much I am thankful for but I need to look at what I’ve lost. 

When you list them out, it’s not so crazy that some days I can’t concentrate and that I just seem to want to cry sometimes. 

It seems like such a simple thing to do but try it. For me, writing this list brought a little sense of relaxation. 

As if I’d been hiding all this grief from the part of myself that was keeping everything going. I could put it down. Just a little bit. 

And here’s one more idea for this time where our losses are so big and yet in so many ways we need to keep going as if things are normal.

What We Have

What do I still have? What is bringing me joy? 

  • Video calls and group texts with my family. In some ways, we are closer than ever. 
  • Checking in on friends and being there for them when they need me. 
  • Delicious summer tomatoes
  • The blue sky and the green trees. 
  • Time for books and study I would have not had otherwise. 
  • Knowing the strength and love of my closest relationships, even more so for being tested. 

That’s what’s helping me right now.  

Acknowledging the loss. 

Acknowledging what is beautiful.  

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