On grieving a worldwide pandemic

This post was first shared as issue 16 of These Sacred Words

The last few weeks have been overwhelming to say the least. Though my days have felt slower in some ways, my mind and my heart have been racing as I try to somehow process what is going on.

But how in the world does one wrap their mind around something like this? How does one cope with it? And is coping even the answer? Is the right thing to do to put our heads down and weather through the days ahead, getting through to the other side of this whole thing unscathed?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure, but I humbly present my wrestling through all of this and a few things that God is teaching me amidst it all.

I don’t think I’m the only one struggling to wrap my mind and my heart around the events of the last few weeks.

The first week of social distancing, I didn’t even allow myself to think about what was going on. I filled the days that I wasn’t working at the coffee shop with reading and working and deep cleaning the entire house. I was productive, finding things for my hands to do so my mind couldn’t dwell on what was happening. 

I put my head down, weathering through the days, telling myself that whether this whole quarantine thing lasted a week or three months, my goal would be to just get through it.

But as my body and hands were busy, I wasn’t allowing myself time to process through the events that were shaking the whole world.

It wasn’t until I started running out of things to do and started to slow down that I began to wonder, maybe the best thing isn’t to come out of this whole thing unscathed?

As I woke each morning, the day loomed long ahead. There were more empty spaces in my calendar than usual…and there were only so many books to read, workout classes to do, square inches of the house to clean. Finally I was forced to take some mental inventory of what had been going on. 

And when I finally slowed down, that’s when it all hit me.

A tremendous wave of grief.

I felt grief over the thousands of lives that had been lost. I felt grief over the hundreds of thousands of people whose bodies were affected. I felt grief over the families who lost loved ones or were living in fear of at-risk family members catching the disease. I felt grief over the hospital workers who were overwhelmed, overworked, and yet were still sacrificing to serve others. I felt sadness for friends who had weddings cancelled, graduations suspended, and births plans scrapped.

On an individual level I felt confusion about all of it – what was actually happening? Who should I listen to? How should I talk about this disease that is ravaging the world when all I’m doing is staying at home, trying my best to flatten the curve – was this little act I was doing even making a difference? Why was my family fine, when so many others were experiencing deep loss?

It all just felt like too much.

To be honest, I haven’t fully processed through all my emotions and questions. I still don’t quite know what is going on in my mind and my heart, much less what is going on in the world.

But I’m reminded of the simple grace that it is to allow ourselves to feel, to grieve, to lament the state of our world. I’m seeing that instead of putting our heads down and hoping to just get to the other side of this unscathed, maybe the right thing to do is to open our hearts wide, to allow ourselves to feel the weight and the grief of it all, and come out on the other side of all of this changed.

Maybe that means that on the other side of all of this we’re more compassionate. More grateful. More present. More connected. More in tune with what our hearts are feeling. More aware of what God is doing in our lives and in the world.

And maybe these small and big changes will changes us for the better, forever. Maybe these small and big changes will change the world for the better.

I guess what I want you to hear today is that it’s okay to allow yourself to feel. It’s okay to slow down enough to see what emotions rise to the surface. Grief. Anger. Sadness. Overwhelm. Fear. Doubt.

Maybe you just feel so tired from the mental race your mind has been running. Allow yourself to rest. Don’t feel the need to check off everything on your to-do list today. 

Maybe after everything that has happened in the world and in your life lately you just feel so sad. Allow yourself to cry. God is not scared of your tears.

Maybe you are overcome with fear and doubt and anger. Bring those emotions to God and allow your questions to drive you deeper into his Word. Remember that this world is broken, but our God is good.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, I hope you find comfort and hope in these things that I know to be true:

Our God is a God who is near – intimately near – near to the point that he entered broken flesh, experienced deep suffering and distance from God so that you and I would never have to – so that you and I could be with God forever. This God suffered more than we ever will, died to atone for our wretchedness, and now is alive. Because he is alive everything has changed. Because he is alive you, no matter what grief or fear you feel, can have hope.

A prayer:

Let us learn to praise God in every moment. Even in the moments where things are not quite how we hoped they would be. Let us learn to trust God deeply in the midst of unknowns and fear. When things feel shaky or confusing or sad, let us continually find abiding joy in Christ.

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