Emily Mee – a mobile news reporter at Sky News – lost her father a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic began. In her blog for newsbreak, she talks about dealing with grief, reassessing her social life in lockdown and finding joy in the little things.
I went into 2020 knowing it would be the worst year of my life. At that point, I didn’t realise it would end up likely being the worst year of everyone else’s lives too. But if anything, it has taught me a lot about how to cope when it feels like your entire world has caved in.
My dad had terminal cancer, and just six days into 2020 he passed away. It was the hardest thing I have ever dealt with, but looking back now I feel very lucky that we spent those last few months able to be there with him and without any worries of Covid. Anyone who has lost someone in the last year won’t have had that opportunity.
Of course, going through the worst thing of your life and then facing a global pandemic within the space of a couple of months will never be easy. I should say that in many ways I have been lucky throughout this time. I’ve managed to keep my job, which I love. I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got the loveliest friends. I’ve got an incredibly supportive family who are always there at the end of the phone, and a mum who has kept me going by doing virtual bake-offs with me and who even sent me flowers when I was feeling low.
Still, even with all these things it can be hard to keep your head above water sometimes and I’ll admit that I’ve had some really low points over the last year. As journalists, we all know that it can be hard to escape the never-ending cycle of bad, very bad and even worse news. When things are hard in your personal life too, it becomes overwhelming.
There have been times when I felt like hiding away from the world and when it has been hard to see that things will get any better. I had my heart broken this year too and – on top of everything else going on – it meant I went into a cycle of barely eating, sleeping or doing anything. Around this time, someone at work told me that no feelings last forever, not even pain. It was a very simple thing to say, but it was comforting, and best of all it turned out to be true.
Like many people, all this time at home has given me a lot of time to reflect and realise what makes me happy. Before Covid, I pretty much lived my life at 100 miles an hour. When I wasn’t in the newsroom, I was seeing friends most days of the week. I’d panic if I’d look at my schedule for the next week and see more than one day where I didn’t have plans. Although I had discovered a love of cooking and baking at university, I had all but stopped because there was rarely any time – I would either eat out (which admittedly wasn’t great for my purse) or make something simple and quick. I rarely had time to myself, and if I did I would be so exhausted that all I’d have the energy to do is watch Netflix.
The thought of spending more than one consecutive evening on my own at home was terrifying. It meant I would have to think about things I didn’t want to think about, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I felt a creeping sense of loneliness. Although I’m not the loudest person, I do thrive on being around other people and I crave company.
When lockdown happened, like everyone else I was essentially forced to spend time at home, alone with my thoughts and with limited social interaction. Actually, it has helped me find things that make me happy. Of course, I am not saying I want to remain in this state of being pretty much a complete hermit. I miss my friends like mad. What I’m saying is that it is no longer terrifying to spend time by myself.
Recently I’ve discovered how healing it is to have a really good bath. No, I’m not disgusting and I have been showering regularly up until now, thank you very much. I just never thought much of baths. But seriously, is there anything more satisfying than placing candles around your bathroom, using the nicest bubble bath you can find, throwing in a bath bomb and putting on a face mask? Bonus points for adding a glass of your favourite wine/prosecco. I sometimes put my fern plant in the bathroom too just for the tropical vibes.
I’ve also rediscovered my love of cooking. I’m trying out new recipes every week still and my housemates are generally both amused and impressed at how much effort I put into my lunches.
Workouts have also been helping recently. I thought home workouts weren’t for me as I am a sucker for starting a new project/routine and never finishing it, but it turns out you just need to find the right one to keep you motivated (for me, a pre-made workout schedule has helped as it guilts me into sticking to it). I went into my new exercise routine wanting to benefit my mental health, but it’s also given me more energy and helped make my days feel more structured while in lockdown.
Now, I’m not saying that any of these things necessarily fix anything. My mental health is not perfect and I still have my down days, but finding small joys in these things has kept me going. Everyone will have their own things they can find the small joys in – whether it’s a walk in nature, listening to music, making jewellery or whatever floats your boat. Nothing works instantly, but finding those little things that give me small doses of happiness or satisfaction has helped build me back bit by bit when I’ve been at my lowest.
Yes, it has been the worst year. But it’s also been the year I’ve learned the most about myself.