A friend told me what we’re all going through with this pandemic is like a grieving process. I don’t think, until she said that to me, that I really let myself be honest with my own feelings and accept where I was myself in the grieving process of this abrupt change to life.
I can remember 9/11 happening and where I was. I always tell my students there was life before 9/11 and life after, because those like me who lived decades before and decades after know it’s different than it was before. But I don’t feel like our life change was as sudden for everyone as it’s going to be with this pandemic. And though many like me may have clear memories of 9/11, there wasn’t a direct impact on every single one of us. We grieved for what others lost, but many of us didn’t personally lose anything ourselves.
But this is different. We’ve all lost in this.
Every single person is impacted, and as much as we all just wish to go back to normal, it won’t be the same normal. It’ll be some kind of different new normal. Maybe, hopefully, a better normal, but life, as it was, is abruptly over.
And we will all grieve that in different ways for different reasons.
But as someone who has actively and willingly sought change in life, I know whether it’s wanted or not, change always comes with growing pains and grief of what is lost in the process.
When this started several weeks ago, I was definitely in the denial phase of the grief process. Without getting into the politics of it all I don’t think many of us were looking at months of isolation, yet that’s the very real reality we’re looking at now.
Then there’s the anger phase. Oh, yes, I have definitely felt the anger. I’ve let it out in angry outbursts, in picking fights, in passive aggressive behaviors that show there’s an angry hostile side that goes with the nicer one most know and, I’m sure, prefer.
Have I reached the bargaining phase of my grief yet? I don’t know. I’ve prayed for God’s patience and guidance in getting me sanely through this. I’ve prayed for this to not take the lives of those I love or those they love. But honestly, the first thing I think I did accept was for whatever reason, this is God’s will. Every hard spot in life I believe God brings us to for a reason and for me personally, what I needed most at first was guidance to see through my denial and anger.
Depression? As someone who’s battled depressive episodes before I know when the things that help me manage it—a busy, productive fully-lived life—were put on pause I knew I’d struggle here. My anxiety and depression bring rage. My life no longer has its schedule. We’ve had to cancel the things we enjoy as a family. Home is where the most stress that brings out my anger is, and now I’m trapped there indefinitely. I fear the situation will ignite my anger and create problems within my family that will make us all prefer to forget this whole experience. So when I feel the emotions starting to boil with nowhere to escape, I sleep a lot—which I know is a major symptom of depression.
I need purpose, I need structure, I need to engage with other people, I need to feel like we’re living life to the fullest rather than passively watching time tick by. So, yes, the depression side of of the grieving process of letting my old life go has definitely been felt.
As for the final phase of grief—acceptance—I’m not there yet.
Sometimes, when I’ve gone through other tough times in my life, I can’t get to acceptance until I know the end result and my own personal plan for overcoming and dealing with the end result. There are just endless unanswered questions right now and unfortunately, I worry those will keep me from reaching the acceptance phase until this is all over and the dust settles with what’s left of our old life as we venture out to rebuild.
As we’re all stumbling around with our emotions right now though, there is no mourning the wrong things here. We all need to feel our feelings in this and our kids need to see us feel our feelings with our disappointment, sadness, worry, and anger. Burying our hurt feelings only leads to bitterness and resentment and blocks the path to healing. Our children have feelings about all of this right now too, so by feeling our own emotions and what we’re grieving that we’ve lost, maybe they will realize it’s OK to feel and talk about their own feelings in what they’re missing.
God saw the need for this pause.
My church has always been nature. I always find myself back in nature, searching for that quiet peace that I know awaits me there where I’ve always believed His presence to be. It was there that I let myself cry the other day. It’s where I released my anger and bitterness and mourned for what we’re all losing and prayed that like many hardships so many of us face again and again, we’ll come out the other side of this stronger and better.
Easter is typically the time of the year we visit the church and this year so many churches will sit empty. But maybe the rising is all of us this time. All of us rising up out of this to do better and be better than we were.
Just like a parent sends her child to his room to think about behavior, maybe we all needed this time to do some serious rethinking. Maybe He’s waiting for all of us to stop fighting amongst ourselves and end our national and international divides and come together to figure this out.
Maybe rather this being the end of what used to be maybe this is the new beginning of what we’ll come to be.