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"Keys in the Freezer, Ice Cream in the Pantry"

That's what my mom and I would say to each other, the year after my dad died. One of us would have forgotten something that we had talked about, like plans to meet at the mall. Or we would be self-reporting on something idiotic we had just done.

And one of us would reassure the other, no, you don't have dementia. You're not going crazy. This was normal. We were experiencing the "brain fog" that comes with grief. A phrase often used about this brain fog nailed it for us: Keys in the freezer, ice cream in the pantry. You rip your house apart, trying to find your keys. Then, looking for the ice cream, you spot them. There are your keys. In the freezer. But where's the ice cream? 


We are going through a global pandemic. This is not hyperbole. I am not being overdramatic. We are in the midst of a life-changing event. The world will not be the same after this. Some day, we will refer to this period as a line between "before" and "after." And here we are, IN it. 

And so we are in grief. The life that we knew has disappeared, but we don't yet know when "after" is going to come. We don't yet know the costs we will incur. And we are deeply aching for the world we used to call "normal life." We are in grief

Acknowledge this. 

Find ways to grieve. 

And accept that your brain just isn't going to be working as well as normal. And cramming in more things to think about, more things to do, just makes it harder. 

What helps? 

Time. How much time? Ach, I don't know. With a death, the event has occurred. It may feel ever-present, but it is in the past. But I do know that even the most extraordinary things become ordinary and routine. When my daughter had cancer, I was surprised at how ordinary our routine became. Get up, pack the car, check in to the hospital for a week. Chemo, blood transfusions, yada yada. 

Centering. This isn't some new-age mumbo jumbo. Centering is about stopping the noise in your head (even if the noise is all around, sorry parents of young ones), and remembering that you are still within your own body, and remembering where your body ends, and the rest of the world begins. It can be as simple as sitting on your couch, putting your laptop and phone to the side, and feeling where your feet are touching the floor, where your butt is in the cushions. And breathing. You're remembering to breathe, right? 

Talk about it. Get on zoom, or on the phone, or with one of the loved ones you're living with. "I need to talk about this, and I don't want you to try and cheer me up or 'give me perspective'- is that okay?" 

Extend grace to yourself, and to others having a "pandemic moment." This, for right now, is normal. So when you do that dumb thing, or forget that zoom meeting, and wonder "What was I thinking?" ... just smile ruefully and repeat, "Keys in the freezer, ice cream in the pantry." 


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