We are grieving, collectively, the world over, all of us. Grieving the past we’ve lost and the loss of the future we expected. Things will be forever different for us. There are stages to this grief, and we will all experience it differently. But it is in acceptance where we will find the ability to process it and move forward into an uncertain future. This is our now. This is what we have to work with.
In this excellent article on grief, David Kessler shares his thoughts on what we are all going through:
“Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this, but all together this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”
The article is well worth a read, as it helps us put the issues we face now in perspective and give voice to our feelings. He states:
“Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s Acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
“Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
Sometimes dealing with a problem begins with naming it. Grief, that’s what it is. Have compassion on yourself and others. This is hard.
Sometimes it is hard to know what to pray for. Things are uncertain, feelings so complex, emotions so raw. Words may fail you. But yet you yearn to reach out to God and ask for help. For you, for those you love, for the world. Please help.
It is in times like these when we don’t need words. God will hear the longing in our heart.
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26.
You don’t need words. You don’t need to figure out if you’re feeling anger, grief, frustration, desperation. You just want God to keep you safe. Open your heart. God will hear its groanings.
For an inspiring prayer sung by a father-daughter duo, take a moment to savor this.
Doing the right thing, the kind thing, the compassionate thing is an act of faith. You may never see the results of your action. You may never know that your courage in doing the right thing inspired someone else who, without that example, may have chosen the expedient thing, or the self-serving thing, or the popular thing. You may never know that the kind words you said gave someone an affirmation they desperately needed. You may never know that your kind thing spread exponentially outward into a billion kind things. You may feel that doing the right thing cost you somehow or was foolish or self-destructive. But you know it is the right thing, so you do it because you have faith that it will make a difference.
Those seeds of kindness that you sow take on a life of their own. They couple with other kind things and spread, though that may be largely invisible to you. Take heart from this video of a seed sprouting. Have faith that what you do makes a difference.
And remember, as stated by Cynthia Occe, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
We can grow in strength, courage, and confidence, but, like anything, we have to work for it. In this article, author Rick Hanson explores steps to cultivating resilience and rewiring our brains. Hanson concludes:
“Going on a dangerous hike, we know that we need to bring food and other supplies. The same is true when traveling the road of life. We need psychological supplies, such as courage and generosity, in our neural “backpack.”
“To fill up your backpack, be mindful of which particular need—safety, satisfaction, or connection—is at stake in the challenges of your life. Deliberately call upon your inner strengths related to meeting that need. Then, as you experience mental resources, you can reinforce them in your nervous system.
“As you grow these strengths and become more resilient, you will feel less anxiety and irritation, less disappointment and frustration, and less loneliness, hurt, and resentment. And when the waves of life come at you, you’ll meet them with more peace, contentment, and love in the core of your being.”
The article linked above is well-worth a read. He outlines strategies we can employ right now, today, to help us recognize and develop our inner strength as we meet today’s challenges.
Let St. Francis of Assisi’s timeless prayer soothe your soul today:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring your light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life
And, for a special soul-reviving treat, listen to Sarah McLachlan as she sings these precious words. Maybe listen a few times.
May there always be work for your hands to do May your purse always hold a coin or two; May the sun always shine on your windowpane; May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain; May the hand of a friend always be near you; May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
And one more for the road:
May the blessing of light be upon you, Light on the outside, Light on the inside.
With God’s sunlight shining on you, May your heart glow with warmth, Like a turf fire that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
May the light of the Lord shine from your eyes, Like a candle in the window, Welcoming the weary traveller.
For better or worse, we have pushed a collective pause button. Our world just got narrower on the outside. Perhaps this is the time to broaden it on the inside. Enjoy the moments. Reach out to people to check in and tell them you care. Savor the little things. Pause and reflect.
Amid a country-wide quarantine in Italy, a beautiful voice sings out into the empty streets, only to be joined by more voices, until their chorus warms the entire world. Enjoy this reminder that, even as we struggle. we belong to each other.
A Siena, città alla quale sono molto legato, si sta in casa ma si canta insieme come se si fosse per la strada. Mi sono commosso pic.twitter.com/IDPqNEj3h3
In every darkness, a bit of light will shine to light your way. It may be in the acts of kindness and generosity you see, in words of wisdom you remember and hold close to your heart, or memories of past struggles that you have gotten through to the other side. We draw strength and courage from each other, working together. That community will sustain us.
In his book, Healing the Divide, editor James Crews collects poem of kindness and compassion. Here is one by Danusha Laméris for you to carry with you today:
“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. ‘Don’t die,’ we are saying. And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, ‘Here have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead—you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’”
We will get through this present darkness. Hold tight to the little kindnesses, savor them, and spread them where you can to light the way for those behind you.
For more, a reminder that we were made for times like these.