“Grief Light”

Eighteen hours. That’s how long it takes me to recover from a Covid shot. When I scheduled my second booster for last Sunday, I knew I would spend most of Monday feeling lousy, but knowing I’d feel lousy and actually feeling lousy were different things.

In between listening to podcasts and binging Virgin River, I thought about how my emotional response to the pain in my body was similar to the grief I feel when I experience a permanent loss. I dubbed the feeling “grief light”—the sadness, denial, maybe even anger we experience when we’re in the midst of a temporary setback; something that we know will eventually end, but going through it sucks nonetheless.

In the middle of the vaccine side effects, I felt helpless, useless, and an intense desire to escape the pain. I missed my “good health” and the normal of my day. But, as I’ve learned to do in the midst of big-G Grief, I never told myself, “Well, at least…”, which is so very unhelpful to anyone who is grieving the loss of anything.

Feelings—all of them, no matter how small or how long they last—deserve our kind attention and care. Asking someone in pain to “look on the bright side” instantly invalidates their experience.

If you hear someone start to say, “Well, at least…”, stop them in their tracks! Roll your eyes dramatically enough so they see you and remind them that there is no place in grief for reminders of what could be, if only they’d….

When the fever broke and the headache finally lifted, I felt incredibly grateful. Grateful to not be in pain any longer, of course, but grateful for the vaccine, my (seemingly) robust immune system, and the pain-free days that I take for granted. Only when it was over could I “see” and appreciate the “bright side.”


I’ve added several resources on the Grief Talk page that I hope you’ll check out or recommend to someone who is grieving. I highly recommend the Good Mourning podcast with hosts Sally Douglas and Imogen Carn. They ended season four with an incredibly helpful (and validating) discussion about anxiety with grief psychologist Claire Bidwell Smith, who wrote Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief.

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