Grief is getting a lot of air time these days. And a good thing too, we almost never want to talk about or even acknowledge grief. It is not a process our culture values. We like to rush past grief to get to better feelings.
However, we have much to grieve right now…
The loss of freedom – At the moment we can’t go where we want or do what we want. For some, this is not a big deal and for others, it feels overwhelming and backwards. The sense of loss is so great some of us are confusing temporary, collective safety measures with tyranny.
The loss of routine – Our daily structures that support us by bringing us comfort through certainty have been stripped away for awhile. Those repetitive practices like alarm clock, shower, coffee, breakfast, take the kids to school, go to work, come home, eat dinner, clean up, two hours of television and bed. Without that scaffolding, many are questioning what their life is really about. What makes a good day?
The loss of jobs – This loss is deeply unmooring during this time. Americans place a lot of value in our work. Often defining our very existence by the work we do. Losing a job is a huge blow during the best of times, but now? Now it feels like drifting out to sea without a rudder or an engine/sail.
The loss of income – Will I be ok? Will my family get their basic needs met? How will we get back on our feet? This grief is laced heavily with terror and shame.
The loss of compassionate leadership – There is an undercurrent of melancholy, leaning to anger, in America as we realize, perhaps not for the first time, that we are no longer the leaders in science or humanitarian aid. That we are doing a big thing badly even within our own borders. There is no plan, there is no effective execution of basic relief efforts for hospitals, the CDC, or FEMA. There is confusion and delay in economic relief for citizens hardest hit. Will we receive the help we need? If not, how will we get through this?
The loss of meaning in our lives – Perhaps this one is more of a recognition that we have placed meaning on things that do not ultimately fulfill us. This grief can feel like regret for focusing on things that actually go against our best interests, those of our loved ones, and even the planet.
The loss of true connection – This again feels like the realization of our loneliness even when surrounded by loving friends and family. Our connections have been rushed and shallow. Our busyness left little opportunity to meet our people from an authentic place.
And I am sure many more things of a personal nature as I have not really even addressed the virus and its effects.
Throughout the pandemic, I have talked with many friends and colleagues about how they feel living in the quarantine and overwhelmingly I have heard that people feel tired, a little lost. And once they have settled into the routine of it, they did not want it to end too quickly.
An acknowledgement that the pace and focus of pre-pandemic life did not fulfill them or honor their beliefs. A desire for real change to set in has taken hold, making us more tolerant of the limitations currently in place.
Some have taken this time to nourish their burned out selves and others have been exploring the answers to the questions that have been floating up for them while grieving the loss of normal.
There is a recognition that maybe we can forge a new normal out of the ashes of a pandemic. Beginning on the individual level, making new choices and prioritizing differently so as to try to make the external life better reflect the inner values and beliefs.
And maybe the limitations COVID-19 has imposed haven’t been too challenging for you. Perhaps you have already been working on these questions for some time. And if you have, huzzah! But know that there are many people out there who are feeling a sadness and heaviness that they probably don’t fully understand. Give them grace and be generous when you encounter them. Send them blessings on their inner journey.
For all of us, allowing ourselves to acknowledge the grief. Sit with it, even. Without trying to figure out what it means just yet. Simply sit with our sorrow, frustration, and loneliness. The meaning will come later.
Processing grief is the beginning of change. And what a magnificent gift change is!
The ongoing pandemic has brought many things into our awareness. And now that we are aware, we can make decisions and adjustments. We can forge a new path towards a more fulfilling way of life.