I’ve heard a lot of people in the entertainment and special events industry, describe how they feel about not being able to work as a form of bereavement.
As some of us are plunged headlong into Tier 4, particularly in London and the South East, it’s hard to watch the impact venue closures are having on performers, producers, technicians, front of house, marketing and booking teams. A mere month ago, we were looking forward to a socially distanced festive season of shows and events.
Piled on top of not being able to work, some of us have already been locked down for months, or isolating against infection. The whole economy is, to quote a technical term, ‘up shit creek’, so it’s understandable that the term ‘feeling bereaved’ comes easily to mind.
People in our industry are craving the buzz of performing to live audiences and Zoom just doesn’t cut it. I am personally struggling with the forced jollity of seasonal online gatherings where we play bingo, compete in quizzes, mix virtual cocktails and wear silly jumpers. I don’t do cocktails or jumpers in real life so guess that makes me a right virtual party pooper.
Yet, as I write out the few cards that I send each year, I am reminded that for many people, over 67,000 of them and counting, bereavement is very real this Christmas. It’s not a term we should be using glibly when we contemplate the real impact of COVID.
The husband of a very dear friend died from cancer in the middle of all this. He was the same age as me. There is no way of knowing if his death was ‘COVID related’ but his treatment was suspended at the beginning of lockdown. His death, like so many others, will be added to the invisible statistics not directly associated with the pandemic.
Now where I live in Medway is top of the leader board for infection and I confess to feeling frightened. There’s a new and more infectious strain of COVID and younger people, not just those over 60, are getting sick. We need greater awareness and, while the vaccine is rolled out to protect the old, vulnerable and frontline workers, the rest of us need to maintain our boundaries, take a free test if offered (I did that yesterday) and think about the language we use to describe our feelings.
My overriding emotion is one of despair, born out of frustration, anger, grief and a lack of control. The Tier 4 announcement is really upsetting for many of us who had modest plans to see our closest family and friends in limited social bubbles. This news evoked feelings closely related to bereavement because there’s nothing we can do except to empathise with colleagues, friends and family, offer them reassurance, ensure they look after their physical and mental health, and try to stay as positive as possible.
My friend can’t bring her husband back – on top of communal grief she’s dealing with a very personal loss. There’s no point in suggesting ways for her to ‘get over it’. The intense ‘nothing-ness’ of it all and the physical lack of that person is emotionally painful. Only time heals that, eventually.
So please can we try to reserve the word ‘bereaved’ for those who really need it this Christmas and find other ways to express our feelings? Channel your emotional energy into volunteering for a charity, pick up the phone for chats with friends and family, or send a few special Christmas cards and messages.
During 2020 I’ve seen the best and worst of people as we’ve all struggled to keep our lives on track professionally and personally. Staying safe and well at this moment in time overrides anything else and I am confident that we will be back to entertain you from a real stage some time next year.
Here’s to a safe and healthy Christmas.