NATURAL VS NORMAL; A GRIEF GURU’S PERSPECTIVE by Mary Schnorrenberg

Over the last few weeks I've been observing the time space reality of where we are locally in London and globally with this pandemic. The shock-waves of this sudden societal collapse and dismantling of our everyday lives with this forced global pause are still rippling out.. Uncharted territories, strange surreal times, though for me I’m feeling the echoes of something deeply familiar and known through most of my life.. Something I thought I'd gotten over, but here it is once more; it’s mental presence is a complete takeover of all thoughts, consumed around the pain of loss while the  physical presence is an energy that seizes your heart, squeezing it so tight until you feel your whole chest constrict, leaving you gasping for air and in streams of tears. This old friend was Grief. My first felt experience of it was aged 10 when my mother died of heart disease - propelling my life into the great unknown - then once more in 2012 when my father passed -expected but still fucken hard as I was just starting to actually like him.


The ripple effects of grief have been with me as long as I can remember, after spiralling in and out of it’s clutches for almost 3 decades, I feel it’s truly the one thing I’ve mastered and can recognise from miles away, an unofficial Guru of Grief, if you like.. This is what I’m seeing, hearing and feeling now personally and collectively, locally and globally;  though clearly we are yet to name it as the end is still not in sight. And the media and socials are doing a damn good job of promoting a complete climate of fear and spreading fiction, when what we need is facts.


Through counselling back in youth, I've learned that there are 5 stages of Grief that one must move through; in waves and cycles that are anything but linear and experienced differently by each individual.


1. DENIAL; On an individual level my immediate response was to believe the story was somehow made-up, and I chose to cling to a false, preferable reality. Kept going through the motions of my life; firmly stating "No I'm still working, still teaching, still getting on that bus, you should too man! What you talking about, its just another flu, like Ebola and SARS before, remember those? I haven't been to a doctor in a decade, I’m cool'." Collectively there were cries of "NO we can still go to the pub and hang about after work.. How dare they tell me otherwise?" Until that last Friday when people swarmed the pubs like it was the last supper and drank as if death was at their doors.


2. ANGER Personally, I was well pissed off when the studio and gym I teach at closed it’s door following government "advice" WTF? Why are you being sheep for? How dare you? This is my livelihood! I’m a free thinker!!! Collectively a lot of us are clearly very anger; venting at anyone and everyone who's not now obeying the many rules dumped down on us in a matter of days. Misinterpreting acts of what’s essential shopping, exercise and work while everyday citizens are policing social distancing.. To direct anger blatantly by lashing out at strangers in parks or on FB local groups for perceived injustices is part of the cycle of grief.


3. BARGAINING Personally I  started promising the universe I would pay my taxes on time and learn to be more punctual and polite if the government just let things stay as is for a few more days/weeks.. Let me catch a train to Brighton because it's a sunny Spring day, I promise I'll change just let me see and be by the sea, pleeeease! Collectively there were a lot of attempts to bargain for more time to live freely as we had done before in exchange for simple things in supermarkets that normally wouldn’t have got a second thought. Toilet roll was glorified to gold status and I heard people in isles of supermarkets offering ridiculous compromises and exchanges that are best not repeated.


4. DEPRESSION This set in for me roughly 10 days ago, the Tuesday when I was heading to Brighton to house-hunt and all the coffee shops started to close down after opening their shutters, they realised it was no more business as usual after Bo-Jo’s serious announcement. This was well and truly the tipping point for me as I went into depression while gagging for my caffeine hit. The day steadily got worse as I realised my laptop was now also in lockdown at PC World, which would affect my future livelihood.


Collectively people seem down though I wouldn't say that the mood is depression...yet. Though those that were over-identified with their jobs as who they were as a defining factor are no doubt feeling lost and depressed. I mostly sense a real stir crazy restlessness as people don’t know what to do with all this time on their hands. I feel depression as a mood has been kept at bay with our outdoor freedom time limited to doing exercise, so more people seem to be taking up exercise, as a respite from being indoors constantly. Which is a good thing!


5. ACCEPTANCE I think I properly accepted this as the new norm from Sunday after a text from a fellow-free-range-go-your-own-way type friend; saying that he was staying indoors and limiting his travels to family visits and exercise, and that I should too. Last man standing made me see the light and start to accept this.  Collectively there is an acceptance of the rules and regulations, how we must operate and the rules we must obey. BUT the deeper, higher road perspective of Acceptance beyond this 'interim period of disruption' is that we will not be going back to how things were, or back to normal. This level of acceptance is yet to be seen, felt and held. Realistically there is no going back to normal as normal was very very far from natural. Normal was allowing a massive increase in people sleeping on the streets, normal was poorer folk having to choose between eating and heating, normal where every aspect of our lives is captured on CCTV except where our food comes from and where our waste goes, normal where white is still right and BAME get the short end of the stick constantly, normal where the West creates wars in the Middle East displacing millions and when the East come for refuge in the West we reject them, normal where Branson and his ultra-rich cronies expect to be bailed out while their employees are asked to work for free for 8 weeks, normal was where knife-crime is killing so many of our youth need-lessly, normal where women are expected to do same amount of work and be paid less than a man, normal where Mother Earth is burning from Australia to Africa to the Amazon and we continue to ignore her screams. Normal where dirty, deceitful, old white men are still governing and governed by greed as their GODS... No thanks, I don't want that normal reality to return. And if we really honestly start to sit in stillness, deeply listen and explore the emotions and GRIEF that's settling into our hearts and minds right now, we too will come to accept that normal was unnatural and stupidly, chronically out of balance.. Allowing the 1% to be soothed, served and satisfied by the 99% of us silly, sedated, shadows of our true selves was no normal way to live. Grief is a natural and necessary process of life, some of us have been through more of it than others. But we’ve all been through various degrees of Grief at one point; loss of pets, jobs, hair, homes, cars, cultures, homelands, distant relatives and parents. But collectively we can get through this once we accept that the old world of normal is well and truly dead and grieve it’s loss. Then we can move forward together to co-create a new normal that serves more of us in balanced, healthy, maybe even enjoyable ways!


If you need to chat about Grief in your own life, drop me a line! Got loads of time on my hands these days...


Inhale, exhale...


Born in Australia to an Egyptian mother and German father, Mary is a true global citizen. She writes, teaches yoga, offers massage and makes eco-friendly yoga products. To contact Mary, visit her website.

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