It’s OK to feel sad in lockdown – it’s not ‘just five days’

Happy 2020 redux, Victoria. This weekend didn’t exactly work out how any of us had planned. And whether it came from a well-meaning friend, or someone from over the border who just doesn’t understand what we went through last year, you’ve probably heard someone say “it’s just five days” or “at least we’re not in the USA”.

Previous lockdowns in 2020 left many Victorians with lasting mental health impacts.Credit:Luis Ascui

While it’s true that this lockdown will (hopefully) last much, much less than 112 days, and we’re not experiencing all the death and disaster of other parts of the world because we’ve handled our lockdowns so well, this all still very much sucks.

Disenfranchised grief is what happens when you experience the loss of something important to you, but you don’t feel like you should be able to properly grieve and seek support for it – whether it’s not something others recognise as being worth grieving, or because everyone else is living through the same trauma as you.

We’ve all lost a lot this past 12 months. Whether it’s contact with friends, a job, something that was important to your sense of identity, or even just the feeling that you could go outside whenever you wanted and see the bottom two-thirds of people’s faces. It doesn’t matter that other people are going through worse – more than one person in the world is allowed to feel sad at a time. We’re not going to run a competition to determine which individual has it worse at that moment.

Shoppers stock up at Costco in Docklands before the five-day lockdown.Credit:Jason South

Minimising what we’re experiencing is just going to cause us all to bottle it up and have our frustration, grief and anger leak out at inconvenient moments.

2019 was the best year of my life: I got to live out career and personal goals while travelling and hanging out with my family and friends. 2020 was supposed to continue and build on that, but instead March was full of rejection and witnessing traumatic events brought on by the pandemic. Even though I’m basically fine; I still have my home, most of my work, I’m closer than ever to my incredible wife, and my parents have survived the pandemic, I still miss who I was and who I was going to be. You probably have a similar story, and had similar plans.

This week families across the state missed out on Lunar New Year celebrations, couples cancelled romantic Valentine’s Day outings, businesses lost a lot of money, and we’re back to only being allowed out for two hours a day. Can you imagine going back to 2019 and telling yourself you’d only be allowed out for two hours a day, and only if you wore a mask?

It’s OK to feel sad, angry and whatever else feels right at the moment. There is no handbook for living through all of this. The fact that we’re all going through the same traumatic event should mean we’re able to talk about it more, not less. Seek whatever support you need, and let yourself feel that loss, even if you don’t think it deserves to be important.

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1800 512 348.

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