There, I said it.
I’m grieving the life I once had with the people I once saw, doing the things I once loved in the way I loved doing them.
You got that, right?
It’s all of our stories these days, hitting the prism of a pandemic and being splintered a thousand different ways. Oh, we have more in common right now than we’ve had in a good long while, the changes, the choices, the challenges … it’s a shared pain this time, though many are hesitant to reach a hand across the aisle to those whose grief may look different from their own.
“God is doing something new. New things are being birthed in this season. The next great revival is on the way.” Trust me. I’ve heard it all, said it all, even believe it all. It’s just wearing a bit thin right now as I find myself admitting, “I don’t want the new! Give me the old, the familiar, the comfortable!” And then I am ashamed for feeling so.
I entered this pandemic full of vim and vigor and a positive, faith-filled attitude. “We shall be just fine,” I declared to all who would listen. Surely this would pass quickly, I’d learn a few valuable lessons, and be on my merry way.
However, the weeks have taken a toll, and I’m a little less cheerful, a little less confident, than I was two months ago. And I’ve come to the conclusion that THIS is not my biggest problem, which is actually believing the lie that I’m not allowed to grieve because true tragedy has not technically befallen me.
I have not lost anyone dear to me due to COVID-19, and those who did contract it healed quickly. We have been able to pay all our bills and continue to have a roof over our heads. So if health and home remain intact, then I have nothing to be upset about.
But wait … maybe that’s not true.
A friend recently received this bit of advice from her counselor, who said we are all dealing with “background grief” these days. And suddenly, it clicked for me. Just because something is not front-and-center doesn’t mean it’s not very real and very difficult. I might be watching a fantastic movie, but that doesn’t make the buzzing of a fly in my ear any less annoying.
So why is this so-called “background grief” tripping me up? Grief makes me feel selfish, childish, because many of the things I’m grieving feel small and petty and unimportant.
I’m grieving a routine that showed me how to budget the minutes and the days effectively.
I’m grieving that I completely fell off the “diet and exercise” wagon and will have to fight to get back on it.
I’m grieving the freedom to go and do as I please, visit my parents, hug on my nieces and nephews.
I’m grieving all the hours spent on WiFi issues and unemployment forms, instead of things I actually want to do with my time.
I’m grieving that my house is dirty and my flower beds need attention and I don’t feel like doing any of it, ever again.
Oh, this is just the tip of the iceberg; I’ll spare you all that’s hidden under the surface. You’ve got your own things, I suspect. But it’s hard to be honest about this stuff because our grief makes us feel guilty. Like a truly spiritual person wouldn’t bat an eye over such inconveniences, such inconsequential things. I’m here to tell you, that’s just not true.
What we are experiencing is difficult on so many levels that it’s hard to unpeel all the layers. We aren’t just missing our routine. We are missing the safety and security that come with it. We’ve traded it in for days that seem to drag along and fly by simultaneously, for whole new theories and speculations that require us to read and ponder and decide who to believe, who to trust, if anyone. And our support system feels shaky as we find ourselves on opposite ends of stay-at-home orders, government corruption, and vaccination debates. Yes, our grief might be in the background, but it keeps tapping us on the shoulder, reminding us of its presence. How exactly does one get off a merry-go-round that never stops to let you off?
Grief over things both big and small is real, so how on earth do we deal with it? The Bible has a few things to say. For starters, Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Some days it has been enough for me to just sit with the Lord in my grief and know that He is close. Like someone who chooses the seat beside you when the whole movie theater is empty, God willingly plants Himself smack dab in the middle of our pain and chooses to keep us company. I might be isolated, but never alone. In a world where we are advised to stay six feet apart, God ignores those parameters and sticks close by our side. There is no social distancing with Him.
And then Matthew 5:4 offers these timely and timeless words: “Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted.” This is not my first rodeo with grief, and it will surely not be the last. One thing I know and can testify to … He is the God of all comfort. He’s not kidding around about this. Better than the temporary reprieve offered by a child’s special blanket or the numbing effect of food or TV, His holy comfort gets deep to the root with a touch that is powerful and inexplicable. We cannot explain it because it is so far outside the realm of “ordinary,” but we recognize it by the accompanying peace that remains despite our circumstances. What a gift!
So here’s my advice … stop trying to push your grief to the back burner, where it will simmer and stew and only increase in intensity. Acknowledge its existence while denying its power. Admit that you are crushed while drawing near to the Comforter. The grief will ebb and flow, changing shape and form and substance, but the God we serve remains the same, and that’s the best news you will read all day.