Grief As We Shelter
By Martha E. Fagan, RN, BSN
I’ve lost count of the weeks since our sheltering in place began though I believe this is week 11. The counting of days has blurred within the bigger calendar of our experience. We’ve all heard so many times “We’re living in unprecedented times”.
It’s true we are living in uncharted times AND sadly some history is repeating itself.
We are grieving and we are fearful.
Grieving on so many levels for so many things…the most painful and hardest is the death of loved ones. We can’t mourn those we’ve lost in any traditional way surrounding ourselves with the comfort of family, rituals and community…we’re experiencing our sadness, loss and mourning in isolation. But even those of us lucky enough not to have lost someone, and still healthy, are grieving life as we knew it…grieving jobs, routines, human touch, person to person conversations, life without masks, play dates, theater, restaurants, public transportation, traveling, crowded days at the beach and barbeques…the list is endless. We are yearning for what was and would happily take back the challenges we faced before COVID19 came knocking.
Add fear to this grief and we can find ourselves acting in ways that don’t serve us well or serve our fellow human beings.
The recent events in Minneapolis surrounding the death of George Floyd have shed light on the dark side of our pent up emotions. When we’re sad, fearful, frustrated and exhausted we see a rise in people’s need to blame someone. We act from a place of anger and fear, in ways that divide us rather than unite us. This is the time, more than ever, that we need one another and we need to embrace our shared humanity.
In the past weeks I’ve written about compassion, resilience, strengths self care, and choice. I’ve used poetry to remind us to welcome and hold all our emotions as we navigate these times. And, I’ve tried to instill hope that we may be able to emerge from this better in deep and lasting ways.
May the death of George Floyd and the others who died as a result of racism and fear not be in vain. May we find a way to band together, taking action to minimize our societal disparity and choose love for one another over hatred—leaving racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-gay and all other “anti’s” behind us.
We can choose to learn from this experience.
Mary Oliver reminds us of this when she talks of learning from pain,
“Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness…
It took me years to see this too was a gift.”
Krista Tippett the creator and host of the ON BEING project reflects on this as well as she expresses her hope for action, “Will we create the world our children — all of our children — deserve to inhabit? Will we structure our life together to honor the professions and the people we have now named as essential? However difficult the lockdown has been, this is the real hard work, and it is ahead of us — life by life, community by community, day by day.”
I’ll end by reprinting the last two paragraphs from a previous blog of mine when I too expressed hope for our future. May this shared world experience wake us to do our part in making choices and taking action in any way we can. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” ~Helen Keller
Our lives and the world we knew will never be the same as it was before COVID-19, just as it was never the same after many tragic times of our past. This is a hard and startling fact AND we do have the potential to shape our future to reflect some of the lessons we’re learning through this. Adversity teaches us and shapes us; we become stronger and more resilient when we see what we are capable of doing in the worst of times.
My hope is we will listen now and learn to be a little slower, a little kinder to ourselves and others, a little more open and accepting of differences, a little more humble, and a little more grateful for what we do have.
Martha Fagan is the Vice Chair of the Bacon Free Library. She may be reached through her email at [email protected]