Last week I read that for every COVID death, there are at least 9 grieving family members. Grandparents, parents, spouses, and partners, and of course children – while I wonder about the accuracy of such a thought, I know there are many people being affected. With over 200,000 deaths related to COVID as of this week, it seems to me that an estimated 9 people impacted might even be a little low. When I think of all those who have lost their lives, and the larger circle of everyone’s family and community, that number means all of us. All of us are grieving the impact of COVID in lives lost and lives forever changed.
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Add to these deaths the traumatic events surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. More recently there have been the deaths of significant leaders – voices of reason such as Senator John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Very public losses that reflect impacts on our communities and country.
Finally, as a friend noted recently, maybe the most difficult loss we are experiencing is the loss of care, compassion, concern, and empathy for one another. Losses of considerate public discourse, of conversations where we can agree to disagree have been a challenge during this election cycle. Her words struck a chord.
A Grief Pandemic
We are in a grief pandemic. A full-scale, community-wide tsunami of loss after loss. How do we navigate all these traumatic losses? How do we put one foot in front of the other and make tiny steps into each day or into the future?
This question has been on my heart since my last blog post.
I have been brought to ground myself in the ever-deepening sense of loss all around us. One of the difficulties of this time is the relentless nature of these losses. The threat of becoming ill looms over our heads and will continue to do so for an unknown amount of time. It will be some time before we come out on the other side of this. We will find some things changed or gone forever.
As a student of grief and loss, I can safely say I do not have any answers to offer here. What I do have is information, ideas, and strategies that have worked during my losses in the past. And what I have is an openness to a conversation about what is happening right now for each of us.
I cannot predict how things will look in the coming months. What I can say is that we each can choose how we will respond today. Each day we have choices to make about getting through the next hours, days, weeks, months until we finally arrive at the other side. Some days this time can seem like a rather long wait.
I think we are all waiting. Waiting to see what will happen next. Waiting in the mystery of all that is unknown. Waiting and watching as things unravel and spill out on the floors of our lives. Waiting for conditions to improve. For life to get a tiny bit better or less scary or perhaps more inviting. Waiting for things to be revealed and uncovered. Waiting for clarity.
Isn’t waiting challenging?
I think waiting can be difficult. It is hard to see waiting, especially uncomfortable waiting, as an opportunity. This time of waiting has many other emotions attached to it – confusion, doubt, fear, sorrow in the extreme, a deep sense of raw vulnerability.
Grief Is Embedded With a Call to Wait
So, during this grief pandemic, wait we must. Waiting with hope is the best kind of waiting. Getting to hope in the midst of hard though, that is really a challenge. To get there, it means digging in I think. Digging in and finding the things that are tiny but that help. It might look like tackling that project you’ve had in mind – you know the one. The messy process of cleaning out a drawer or closet. For me, making a mess while I’m waiting seems to have some satisfaction I can’t even really explain.
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Recently I stained a wooden deck. It has needed repair and staining for quite some time. And it was messy. I got stain on my hands, on my shorts and my shirt. In my hair. I made a mess while I worked – and it felt really good. It felt good to make the mess and to clean up and see the results too. There was something really satisfying in seeing the process through from start to finish. (Especially in a time when waiting seems interminable.)
It inspired me to do more. I have a small bench I’ve wanted to paint. An old chair too. I’ve picked new colors and purchased primer and paints. I’ve chosen brushes. None of these have been very expensive in terms of investment – but the creative juices have been flowing. And when my grief bubbles up to an overwhelming level, I love dipping my brush in and making a mess.
What are you doing while you wait to feel better? Wait for the grief pandemic to ease or the answers to appear? What messes can you make and clean up that will add to your sense of satisfaction and confidence? Where can you find a new color with which to express yourself?
Need some help getting that new project started? In this video, you’ll learn 10 tips for tackling a big project.