The Great Unsettlement

The term, “The Great Unsettlement”, is not mine.  I read it in a novel (I wish I could remember what it was!) that was written during the time this amazing planet of ours, and all of us on it, were turned upside down with the arrival of Coronavirus or Covid 19 in early 2020.

The first time I heard the term Coronavirus was in Doha airport when I was on my way home after my partner of 30 years had died suddenly in Italy.  I had hoped to fly home on the same plane as him – even though he was necessarily flying ‘cargo’.  That is a whole other story!

But that was not to be. 

His body was being flown home the following day.  I was on autopilot when a very kind ground staff employee was escorting me to a lounge and she asked me what I had heard about ‘Coronavirus’.  The comment went right through to the keeper.  None of us in January 2020 had any idea of what the impact on all of us was going to be.

Bringing David home – just as the great unsettlement began.

I will be forever grateful that I was able to bring David home, prepare his farewell service with as many people who wanted to attend being able to do so; and having a shoulder-to-shoulder crowded wake at home with no thought of social or physical distancing.  Many friends commented “it was the best funeral EVER!”  And if you have to have one, it was.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a loved one and not be able to be there for them – before, during and after their death.  Such an experience must inevitably complicate the grief process. And it happened to thousands!

When we went into the several and varied lockdowns, the memories of David’s service and wake soothed my broken heart.  But I was also thrust into the loneliness of grief and loss.  I always believed that grief was an intensely personal process.  No-one can know what it is like for another person, even if you are grieving the same loss.  We all do it differently – and inevitably alone.

A reflective garden with Buddhist images to encourage meditation
Meditation has become a non-negotiable part of my daily routine to shore-up my inner reserves.

The desolation of being alone.

A collection of jigsaw puzzles, companions during Covid
The ‘at home’ general activities during Covid in one picture.

But being isolated from the physical presence of others, meeting for a coffee, ‘just thought I’d pop in’, what are you doing tomorrow?, especially the missing hugs – this forced me into an aloneness for which I was not prepared.  I wasn’t prepared for the aloneness of life without David of course; but I wasn’t prepared for the desolation of being alone, without him to share it.  It forced me to either find my inner reserves or go under.

Never in my over 70 years had I felt I just didn’t want to be here.  I can’t say I had a death wish but I certainly didn’t want to live this life so alone.  It was a very scary time and one I didn’t feel I could share with anyone so as not to worry them.

Fortunately, I found ‘my tribe’ – a few lovely, wonderful friends who had been through profound loss.  It was doing ‘Good Grief’ to share honestly with them how I was feeling and for them to understand as they had been through their own version.

It is okay to feel anything.  It’s what we do with it that matters.

Gay McKinley with gardening secateurs
Spending time in the garden, especially during Covid, was balm for my soul.

To read Gay’s previous articles, beginning with the first in her series, go to:

Leave a Reply