A dear friend of mine once talked about the experience of a “grief fairy.” This fairy was the metaphorical way she explained how grief was not a simple, linear process from tragic event through grief to wholeness. Instead, she imagined grief as a fairy who would, out of nowhere, lighten upon your shoulder and all of a sudden you went from fine, or at least managing, to not fine at all.
In some ways, I feel like this pandemic has become the same way. We have begun to convince ourselves that we had our chance to be sad in the first few months of the virus, or even in these last six months. But by now we should be adjusted, used to the “new normal,” and ready to get moving. All the markers are there: Summer has pretty much ended; the children are back to school – if not in person, certainly online; some employers are expecting workers to return to the workplace; churches kicked off their program years – even if they were missing the normal parish parties and picnics; and things like elections are rapidly approaching. For all intents and purposes, we should be putting on our game faces and getting back to “normal.”
The problem is nothing is truly normal. And every time we run into anything abnormal, we are reminded of our grief over what has been lost during this time. We have become quite good at coping, to be sure, but somehow, that fairy keeps landing on our shoulder, reminding us of our grief in big and small ways: when the kid’s back to school photos are missing pictures of the school bus; when a visit to someone sick is either not allowed, or has enough restrictions that we do not even bother; when the church year begins, but we’re still watching online; when we go to run a quick errand and realize we left our mask at home.
My prayer for all of us is that we be a bit gentler – with each other, but especially with ourselves. If you are feeling frustrated about your inability to keep your game face on, take the game face off and let yourself acknowledge the grief still lingering among us. If you are surprised by a sudden surge of feelings about something seemingly small, remember that grief during this time is not linear, and that the fairy will keep on visiting. If you are feeling alone in your ability to keep it all together, lean into your faith community to remember God’s grace for all of us. We are all in this together. We will have days of strength and days of weakness. But God is present in all of it, always holding out the light to get us through the darkness.