This week, I hopped in the car to pick up an order of food from a local restaurant. We’ve been trying to support our local businesses, and this has become a weekly treat. On my drive there, I suddenly felt a sense of freedom. I was totally alone in the car, I was blasting music only I like, and I was free from the confines of our home. The whole trip was probably only 20 minutes round trip, and I have been out of the house many times, as I am the designated person to pick up necessities, but something about this particular drive was so gloriously freeing that the release of blissful emotion almost made me cry with longing.
As I thought about the drive later, I began to understand the surprising surge of emotion. Intellectually, I know we as a world are suffering a tremendous amount of grief. But I had not fully acknowledged my own grief – grief over seemingly small losses. In my case, the loss of freedom to structure my day, create space without children around for contemplation or accomplishing work, to go about daily rituals (work, shopping, dropping off kids), or even the ability to just hop in the car and go wherever I want. I suppose I had not acknowledged my grief because there is much bigger grief all around me – grief over the death of loved ones whose funerals are indefinitely postponed, grief over lost livelihoods and the threat of financial ruin, grief over the incapacitating of the body from this virus, grief over lost milestones, such as graduations, weddings, and baptisms. In the face of such enormous grief, my feelings felt petty or unmerited.
I have counseled more families than I can count after a loved one has been lost. We talk about how important having a funeral as soon as possible is so the grief process can begin. With church members, we send a series of four books over the following year to help them as their grief evolves. But in the midst of a pandemic, grief is a strange animal. There are ways in which we are hesitant to acknowledge or give credence to our grief. There are ways in which we stuff our grief because we are just trying to survive. And there are ways in which our grief simply cannot be processed because of the elimination of our normal rituals.
All of that is to say, I hope that you can use this time to give yourself the same amount of grace and lovingkindness that our Lord gives us. This time is unlike anything most of us have faced, and our normal coping mechanisms may not be sufficient. And that is okay. The good news is that Christ is walking with us in this time, holding our fragile selves together (and staying nearby with the fragility shatters). Our invitation is to accept that tenderness for ourselves, and, when possible, extend that tenderness to others – our loved ones, our neighbors, and strangers. As always, you are in my prayers. Today I especially pray that you can feel God’s loving arms surrounding you on every side.