I’ve beat myself a lot over the past 5 months because the pace of 2020 has felt so challenging and, at times, unmanageable. My internal monologue has been, “You get to work from home, stop complaining … you’re not even doing retreats so what is there to be stressed about … you can’t be lonely, you still see people you love every day.”
I didn’t realize how much I was letting those words push things under the rug. Then August 1st arrived. In my “normal world,” August is like a second New Year. I look to August as a time to reset and refocus before finishing out the last chapters of each year.
As I started one of the August “resolutions” I’d set for myself, I became overwhelmed and I could not continue reading what was in front of me because the page was blurry. I realized I was crying for no apparent reason. The monologue started again then something pushed me to stop and ask this question:
“What would I tell my daughter right now if she was feeling overwhelmed, heavy, and incredibly sad? Would I tell her to shove it down and ‘suck it up’ because other people have it harder or would I invite her to grieve it and feel it?”
I really hope I’d invite her to grieve.
Here is my invitation to you to grieve. The truth is this pace is hard. It is hard because we’ve never done it before. We are learning new skills. We are parenting, leading, working, being a child or spouse or friend or fill-in-the-blank in a way you never have before. We’ve known how to play our parts for years now and suddenly the role is changing because we’ve been impacted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually on a global scale.
Give yourself grace because you’ve never done this before.
Like me, you may think you’ve grieved because you’ve said out loud that things have changed or are hard. Maybe you’ve grieved one particular piece—like a missed event or trip. But have you felt the collective loss and sat with it? I can tell you I’ve spent months saying things like, “I’m frustrated or disappointed,” but I have not sat with the disappointment.
I don’t know any more about a pandemic than you do. But I do know about grief. I know that grief doesn’t go away if we ignore it. I also know grief can be a jerk and show up on a random Saturday and knock your feet out from under you because grief doesn’t stick to a schedule or a checklist.
In grief, the only way forward is through.
If we don’t sit with the disappointment or fear or sadness or anger, we form new habits to avoid those feelings. We do things like watch junk tv for excessive amounts of time, we choose social media over real people, we pick fights, or obsessively clean. We choose isolation over connection. The thing about those things is they are not bad in moderation (except for picking a fight). However, if we don’t keep them in check, they become habits that years later we are trying to heal from or break.
You might be thinking, well that’s ominous.
I promise it’s not because you can start today. You can do one thing today to stop pushing down the grief and instead choose to wade through.
Here are a few suggestions for you:
Call—yes, I said call—someone and tell them this is hard. Tell them it is awkward to call and talk about your feelings. It’s okay if you don’t know how to talk about it but feelings lose their power when they stop spinning around inside our heads.
When Netflix asks if you’re still watching (or is that just me?) hit pause and ask yourself, “What I am avoiding?” and sit with the answer. Sit with the discomfort.
When you start to pick a fight with your spouse or parent or sibling or friend ask yourself, “What am I looking for here?” Maybe you’re just looking for connection.
There are going to be plenty of hurdles and consequences as a result of this pandemic, untended grief does not have to be one of them.