I just read an important blog post on Medium by Dr. Lyra D. Montiero, “Please Professors: Stop Pretending the Dying Isn’t Happening.” It was written by her after reading the tweet above, and in turn, what she wrote inspired this short response from me.
Several of my students have lost relatives in the past two weeks, others are working in hospitals and groceries as poorly paid, mostly unprotected “essential workers” and they’re frightened or worse, too numb to feel afraid, too dependent on their pay to simply “shelter at home.” Two that I know of are ill. What we say to them and how we treat them always matters, but at this traumatic moment, it’s crucial that we empathize and allow them some space to learn a new “normal.”
When my brother died (in the same week that beloved relatives were murdered) a professor on my dissertation committee told me I should work through it and put it all into my work. I’ve rarely been more shocked and infuriated and hurt (I thought he was an understanding human being until then)
My response to him was “My brother was worthy of my mourning him and I’m taking time to do so.”
There’s a huge push to act and produce normally, but in the face of these upheavals and death, that can be a dehumanizing and cruel position to take. For some people keeping to a schedule is comforting, but in my experience, that’s often part of a delayed reaction or even denial. I’m a big believer in being present to your feelings and actually feeling them, not only thinking them. It’s part of our essential humanity and connection to Life and it’s a part we should want to cultivate as we consider the society we’ll be creating post pandemic, because whatever else happens, we are not returning to the “normal”we had before. And that can be an extremely good thing.