Grief. It is all around us. Mourning a way of life that is lost. Missing worshipping in our sanctuary. Longing to hang out with friends and family. Worrying about how our children will go to school. Struggling with job loss or lost income. We are surrounded by loss. We can see the grieving process in the public and private spheres.
Denial: Virus? What virus? We see denial as we push against the science and insist it just isn’t so! Parties on the beach. Crowded bars full of unmasked people. We push against restrictions and insist we can live in the ways we are used to living. It isn’t rational. It isn’t logical. Our response makes no sense. But, this is denial. This is grief.
Anger: We get angry with each other. We fight with one another over masks and distance and in person school or in person worship. We shout into the void of Facebook or Twitter. The space for grace we hold for one another shrinks. We assume the worst rather than the best. In our personal lives, perhaps we have become testy, angry and irritable when we ordinarily wouldn’t be. We are responding to loss. Our behavior isn’t always rational. We can make space for the anger. We can understand. It is grief.
Bargaining: And, of course, we are bargaining. What if we had our children in “pods”? What if I wash my hands every 5 minutes? What if we do a “deep clean” of our building? What if everyone is just really good and follows all the rules? Then, can we make our lives look like they used to look? We are constantly trying to bargain our way out of our loss. It won’t work. We may find clever ways to move forward, but the loss remains.
Depression: Unfortunately we are also experiencing depression. I get calls from people who are struggling. Many are fighting the urge to just fold up on the couch. Some are resisting a sense of hopelessness, trying to find our way beyond doomsday scenarios in which this carries on…forever. Have patience with yourself. Have patience with others. Depression is a part of grief.
Acceptance: The final destination for us, the healthy place to land, is acceptance. Learning to accept the realities of coronavirus, our new limitations, the unpredictability of our future, is the path forward. This is not easy. Our loss remains, but we will learn to accept our current circumstances and to find sources of joy within them.
I once sat with an elderly woman who had just experienced a great loss. As she sat with her grief, over and over again she said, “This is just such a hard thing to accept.” Her long years had taught her both not to deny that the grief is hard, but also that acceptance is the only path forward.
She is right. Acceptance is, “a hard thing.” It is not trite or minimizing of loss. It is not simplistic. Our loss remains, but we walk toward acceptance. What will this acceptance look like? What life does God have for us in this uncertain future? Surely, the Church is a place where we can accompany one another on this path from grief to acceptance, grounded in our hope of God’s love. Having annually rehearsed the path from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, we have experience to draw from.