Are you experiencing a fresh wave of pandemic grief?
Suffering deserves the dignity of recognition
At the beginning of the pandemic I wrote and asked you:
How are you doing, really?
Reading through your responses gave me all the feels. I was floored by your candor, heart, humility, and vulnerability in sharing the very real struggles and disappointments, along with the sweet gifts some of you were surprised to find.
As we hit the halfway mark for 2020 it feels entirely appropriate to ask this question again:
How are you doing? Like, really?
It seems when the virus first started sweeping the earth we quickly adapted. As hard as it was, we knew what we had to do: wash our hands, close our doors, figure out how to rearrange schedules, cancel conferences, postpone trips, learn new technology platforms, become our children’s teachers, figure out how to do house church or church online, move family reunions to Zoom, replace birthday parties with drive-by parades, stock up on toilet paper, bake bread. It was weird and hard and disruptive but we were fine. We recalibrated.
Begging for air
Now as Covid has surpassed ten million cases, and nations like the USA and Brazil are incredibly hard hit with no sign of the curve flattening, we’re looking around at one another wondering just how much more we can take. We’ve lost jobs, lost homes, lost weddings and gatherings we had looked forward to, lost work opportunities, lost income, lost routine, lost momentum, lost any sense of certainty. Some have even lost loved ones.
Then of course right in the middle of the pandemic a few key events tilted the public tide to cry out for equal justice at a volume never before heard in our generation. All of a sudden we were paying attention differently. (Maybe we couldn’t sit still long enough to notice before?) The pain was loud and intense and warranted—the suffering of generations had finally erupted into a consciousness that demanded attention. Unrecognized pain can go quiet for a long time but there comes a fracturing where it cannot be contained any longer. What comes out can be frightening, disorienting, painful.
Like a lanced wound, the world split open, begging to be given air to breathe, to heal.
Suffering deserves the dignity of recognition
And so here we find ourselves: midway through the year that started on fire (Australia) and has devolved into what feels like the whole world fighting over things like whether or not wearing a face mask is kind or an infringement of personal rights. We’ve backed ourselves into a corner and now feel claustrophobic as restrictions retreat and then advance, retreat and advance. All of it is dizzying. We’re still fighting for our breath. (Let us not forget to fight for theirs.)
So how will we respond—with compassion toward ourselves and others? Will we hold space for grief? Will we name the suffering and tend to it with care? Or we will lash out in pain? Will we bear down and hold tighter to our own?
The ebb and flow of grief
The world is grieving right now and I’ve learned a few things about grief over the last several years. It starts with shock and horror but then somewhere down the track the acute disappointment and adrenaline wear off and we’re left with the ramifications of starting to see that it’s not going anywhere. It’s here for the long haul and can’t be wrapped up as neat and tidy little life lesson as we had hoped.
It lingers. It ebbs and flows. Some days feel fairly normal and then the next we’re hit with a fresh wave of sorrow or anger or despair or confusion—all of it grief coming out sideways.
What grief exposes
And here’s the thing about grief: it exposes everything—our weaknesses, our entitlement, our jealousy, our insecurities, our pride, our selfishness, our lack of foresight, our inability to stay in the present, our self pity, the holes in our theology, our self doubt. (Need I go on?)
When you’re grieving it’s not the time to pull up your bootstraps and muscle your way through it. When you’re grieving it’s time to slow down, pay attention, and ask questions of your grief: What are you trying to teach me? About myself? About God? About the world around me?
I can’t solve your grief or make it go away. I can’t tell you how long it will last. But I can say this: I see you. I see you grappling, trying, hanging in there. I see you making the most of things. I see you adapting. I see you surrendered. I see you fighting. I see you showing up. I see you wanting to give up and then deciding not to. I see you.
Hope that persists
Take heart friends. This time is hard, but if there’s one thing I’m asking the Lord during this strange, strange year it is this: Give me 2020 vision Lord—help me see clearly. Help me clarify priorities, clarify values, clarify how and where to invest my time, talents, and energy. Help me clarify how I see myself, my neighbors, my family, you.
This is my prayer for you, too:
Help her to see, Lord. Give him clarity. Give her insight. Give him grace. Give them prophetic imagination to envision not just what is but what could be. Give them hope that persists. Amen.
Be gentle with yourself, friend, and name your suffering. Suffering deserves the dignity of recognition for that is where healing begins. Name your grief, name your need, name your inability to live outside of God’s grace, name your hope.
And hang in there.
So, how are you doing? I mean—really?
Persisting in hope,
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