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Coping in a Covid world

Life is pretty challenging at the moment isn’t it. This week the UK death toll for Covid passed 100,000 and however you feel about the virus and how it’s been handled, that is an incredibly tragic number to comprehend. Covid is a virus which doesn’t just cause physical suffering, due to its nature it causes individuals to suffer on their own, in a sterile hospital ward with the reminder of death all around them, locked away from loved ones, whose squeeze of the hand and reassuring smile are sorely missed. Reading the stories of health care staff working flat out, day after day, seeing so much suffering around them and so often not being able to save them, must be heartbreaking and utterly exhausting.

For the majority of us, while we’re blessed not to suffer in that way or to have to see sorrow on such a relentless scale, the daily grind of life is in itself relentless. Whether it be the loneliness of isolation, fear of what’s to come, fatigue from home schooling children or the frustration at missing precious time with grandchildren, the days we’re living through are unique amongst most generations because unlike many tragedies in life, everyone is being affected to some degree at the same time. And that in itself can make coping so much harder.

When my wife Rachel passed away very suddenly 2 years ago, it was a devastating moment for me and the boys, for our families and friends. During those first few months, within that circle of individuals, everything was experienced through the lens of losing Rach. As we all suffered together, we could support one another and hold each other up as someone was in particular need. It was amazing and I shall be eternally grateful to every single person who supported us in even the tiniest way through that period. But sometimes all I needed was to get outside that bubble, sometimes what I needed was to see there was a world still spinning, where life was moving on as normal. At work, meetings were held, deadlines were set and certain fellow Sergeants still never made the tea.

The day after Rach died was the Cricket World Cup Final, where England dramatically won against New Zealand in a super over. That match went ahead, uninterrupted by the preceding days events in a hospital in Cambridgeshire.

I am certainly no expert in grief counselling, but from my experience having those things which were ‘normal’ and completely unaffected by my own struggles were so helpful in allowing me and I’m sure other friends and family too, moments of escapism. Mentally, to be able to put that suffering in a box, even for a short time, was so crucial to give myself a break from the often crippling anguish of losing my wife. Learning to not feel guilty about that too, but to recognise the importance of mentally and emotionally giving yourself time to recover from the trauma, was absolutely necessary as I began the healing process.

That was possible for me, because there was a world outside my circumstance which was ‘normal’ and I could embrace it when I needed to.

Yet when the whole world is caught up in that tragedy and the majority of conversations you have are prefaced with the question “How are you coping?”, it’s so much harder to be able to find moments of escape and give yourself that break when you need it.

So how can you still do that? From my experiences, I’ve learned the following and tried to put them into practice:

  1. Stop watching the news. It’s so tempting, to flick on BBC news on my phone, or to read each Sky news alert which comes through. But is it helpful? That’s not to say keeping up with what’s going on is bad, but a constant diet of downbeat news reports will only leave you feeling negative and possibly angry. Try spending a day without looking at the news and see what difference it makes to your wellbeing.
  • When you talk to people set time aside for ‘non-Covid’ chat! It’s hard when there’s not a lot else going on and everything seems to come back to the virus, so if necessary make a conscious effort to pick subjects which won’t lead that way, such as discussing your favourite film, sharing memories from the past or how much you enjoy an amusing single Dad blog you started reading recently…
  • Read a good book. I’m sure we’ve all got pretty good at working through the latest Netflix series over the months, but nothing compares to being immersed in a good book. Maybe steer clear of themes such as global pandemics, but find a book which will capture your imagination and transport you somewhere which will interest and enthral you. If you don’t know where to start – ask someone, I’ve found recommendations are the best way to find good reading material. Speaking of which, I’ve started reading Richard Osman’s amusing murder mystery novel ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ about a group of eccentric octogenarians who help solve a murder and so far (100 pages in) can give it a recommendation.
  • Find hope that will last. For me personally, this means reflecting on the hope I have in God, the promises given to me in his word the bible, that as much as I don’t understand it, nothing is outside his control and far from that being a barrier to me, that’s an encouragement because not only do I know even when walking through my valley, he’s using the circumstances in my life for good, and he’s promised to walk through it with me. Hope can be pretty scare in times of great uncertainty in life so finding hope in something greater than me or this virus has made the biggest difference in how I cope.

Sometimes there is no escape from the reality of your situation, and at the end of the day, it gets dark. So make sure whatever you’re going through, you have someone to talk to. Whether that be a friend or someone from a service designed to help those in need. And if you’re really desperate you can always talk to me 😊.

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  1. Susan Winters

    When Rachel died I couldn’t believe that life was still going on around me and people were still doing the ordinary everyday things but I very soon realised that life still goes on whatever challenges are thrown at you and you have to learn to cope.

    Thank you for the very good advice on coping with covid Jonny.

  2. Katherine

    Reading your blog definitely resonates with me at the moment, grief is definitely harder to bare and is more lonely when you don’t have the escapism of “normal life” or the physical contact of friends and family at a time you need them more than ever. My partner died end of 2019 and just as I was coming to terms with the shock of what had happened, boom we went into lockdown and the world and my life that had already changed, changed even more.
    Thank you for writing and your honesty of how youre feeling

    • Jonny Wicks
      Jonny Wicks

      Hi Katherine, thanks so much for your message. That must have been so hard, to not be able to have that direct support (and quite frankly, hugs) which you just need so soon after going through something so devastating. I really hope you still got support in other ways and are doing ok.

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