As shelter in place lingers on and I have recently been checking in on people, there is a very common thread that is growing. Grief. Loss. Uncertainty. Fear. Depression. Doubt. But in the same conversation I also hear the other side. Hope. Joy. Faith. Trust. Belief. The current COVID-19 realities that we are living is colliding with our faith, and we are trying to make sense of it all. Some days we are on top of the world and know God is at work and we believe He will bring us through this. Other days we want to crawl under the covers and not come out until it is all over. And many more emotions throughout the day.
It seems that almost overnight the normalcy, routines, predictability and plans of our lives were thrown out the window. And in its place came COVID-19 and it brought with it uncertainty, anxiety, fear, confusion, disruption.
And suddenly, the whole world is experiencing the same life changing challenges. We are living in a time we may have never dreamed possible, one that only sci-fi movies are made of. But that is where we are today.
There is much loss and grief we are collectively experiencing. Together, we are in the same storm, but our boats are all different. What does your boat look like? What are the changes, losses, and griefs you are facing and experiencing?
I love that this verse reminds us that God wants us to come to Him with all of our negative emotions and feelings and that He wants to bring us peace. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
The modern definition of grief is keen mental suffering or distress over a loss or affliction—a sharp sorrow—a painful regret.
In the midst of COVID-19 we are experiencing the grief of death in a way that is unheard of. Our loved ones are hospitalized and dying without us being allowed to be at their side. We have not been allowed to gather to love, hug, weep, and support family members. Very small funerals are being held via Facebook Live. We never could have imagined such a time as this.
God knows the depth of this pain and he tells us so in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” And in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Throughout this time, we are facing many loses and we may very well be experiencing grief and not be aware of it. In 1988 we moved from Iowa to Ohio. After we got there and the kids got settled into school and Denny into his job, I was left with the job of unpacking and organizing our home. I am a fairly high-energy, optimistic, get ‘er done kind of person and yet I found myself spending my days lying on the couch. I was sad. I had no energy. I had no interest in unpacking. It was not until years later that I looked back on that time and realized that I had been grieving many losses that came with that move.
The losses in this season of COVID-19 are many and we may be experiencing more than one at a time. Within the same home and family there are different losses and different amounts of grief. When you look at your life a few months ago to now, what have you lost?
Family members or friends have died, a sense of security is gone, part of your salary has been taken, your job is eliminated, plans for your future are on hold, you wonder about your purpose and identity, routines are out the window, activities are all cancelled, community within your workplace is non-existent, clubs and gyms closed, hugs prohibited, personal space is now six feet, there are no proms, wedding plans are up in the air, graduations are not being held, family reunions and social gatherings are not allowed, there is no peace and quiet in your home or you are totally alone in your home and the isolation is unbearable and the list goes on.
Some things we can take in stride and others we cannot. What might cause me to experience grief, may only slightly impact you.
Thankfully, as believers we always have hope! “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
Let us not give in to fear. The enemy wants us to fear. Keeping too focused on the news can develop into fear and anxiety. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Below are some signs that you may be experiencing grief, the stages you can expect to go through and tips to help you navigate.
Some Signs You May Be Experiencing Grief
Trouble sleeping Excessive eating
Too much sleeping Difficulty concentrating
Loss of interest in activity Anxiety
The grief journey is not an easy one and is different for each person, but you can expect to go through five stages. They will not necessarily be in the same order for each person and you may go back and forth between them.
Five Stages of Grief
Denial: This cannot be happening to me
Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?
Bargaining: Make this not happen and in return I will_________
Depression: I am too sad to do anything
Acceptance: I am at peace with that has happened
Tips to Navigate Grief
Take care of yourself physically: eat healthy, exercise, go outside for fresh air and sunshine.
Take care of yourself spiritually: spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, attend online church.
Spend time with others: although all virtual for now, you can be a part of a LifeGroup and connect with your family and friends.
Talk about what you are experiencing: share your feelings with friends, family, in GriefShare, with a pastor or counselor.
Ask for help: if you are not sure where to turn, call the church for prayer and direction.
“Grief is a journey, often perilous and without clear direction,” writes author Molly Fumia. “The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.” Fumia, Molly. (2003) Safe Passages.York Beach, ME: Conari Press.Topics: COVID-19, grief, Mental Health