The Five Stages Of Grief (When Turning 30 During A Pandemic)

The month before

your 30th birthday has been an unrelenting onslaught of bad news. You try to keep your chin up because you love your birthday — you’re an Aquarius, but also a narcissist above all, so this should be your time. Instead, you feel like you’re pressing your forehead against very cold glass, waiting for it to shatter and cut you up into a million little pieces.

You’re into your second year of quarantine thanks to a pandemic that you once dismissed as “just a bad flu.” Every day you take your stupid little depression walk with your stupid little mask, and you think about your stupid little brain and how, for a fleeting moment, it convinced you that this would be nothing. You haven’t seen your family or most of your friends since early 2020; you, a genius, opted to move to New York from Toronto a year before the pandemic hit, and now you feel trapped in a place that looks like home but feels completely foreign. When you google grocery stores (you don’t recognize any of the chains) to try to find bucatini, you just find a bodega that sells nothing but 6-year-old lime chips. Your niece calls you and tells you she’s been watching news clips of you online because she misses seeing your face and hearing your voice. You have never been punched in the nose with a closed fist (surprising, since you’ve often deserved it), but this is probably what it feels like.

Every weekend, you sit in a transparent bubble built out of plastic and zippers, encircling a little patio table and chair and heater. Your ankles are on fire, your head is freezing cold. You’re too chilly — in every meaning of the word — to ever really enjoy the pleasure of getting drunk. You bring a Corpse Reviver No. 2 to your lips, shivering, and think, Yes, this is fine.

Three weeks before your birthday, your Veena Masi dies in India, a country that once told you that you belonged there and then denied you a visa for entry, right before the pandemic hit. People tell you that the canceled trip was good news — “Imagine being stuck in India for all this!” It’s cold comfort — you’re sure you were denied because of an article you wrote a year earlier, critical of the Indian government and its handling of Kashmir, but you can’t even get any confirmation of this. Your aunt was a small, spry woman who spoke very little English but always held your hands in hers and told you that you look like your mother. She was a year younger than your mom, who calls you from Canada wailing into the phone. Her family is shrinking. She didn’t see this one coming. You want to run to her and make her chai and help manage your father, but you can’t, because there’s a pandemic, and accidentally killing your mother seems worse than just letting her suffer in front of you on FaceTime. “My childhood is gone,” she says. You’re quiet, and you listen, distinctly aware that your mother’s unbearable grief is but a reminder that your childhood, too, is slipping away.

Your niece’s dog, Steven “Steve” Roger Koul, a miniature dachshund your brother got when you were in the 11th grade, is starting to slow down. He isn’t eating, he seems disoriented, and his face is mostly gray. Most of his teeth have been pulled, so now he peers around the room with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. It’s cute, but still a harbinger of doom. He’s an old man, but you’re hoping he can get through the year. You think about how you once took care of him for three weeks, and he kept leaping up on the kitchen counter to eat your lunches, day after day. You cry, because now he can’t really eat any sandwiches at all.

Despite opening your laptop every day for 10 to 13 hours, you have made less than no progress on your book. You sold it a year before the pandemic compressed your life, a collection of essays about...what was it again? Fighting? Fights? Being an asshole? All three, maybe. But you have lost any sense of who you are, and such a thing makes writing about yourself impossible. When you read the thoughts of your own narrator, you think to yourself, God, I hate this woman. You wonder if you should give the money back to your publisher, or perhaps try to say something so inflammatory that they just cancel it themselves. (Written in your notebook during a brainstorm: “Do a murder? Be racist against an invented ethnic group? Try to get on Red Scare?”)

You get a haircut because you want to feel better. It comes out looking like Steve chewed on your hair and left you with jagged ends. You call your friend Barb, who looks at you with her saddest eyes because she knows it’s beyond repair — that’s how you really know things are falling apart. You cry for three days while your husband, typically bold and confident, stands awkwardly at your bedroom door, looking at you, stricken. “But I like bangs,” he says, mostly to himself.

Source :

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