Good Grief

Let’s just be honest, some days, living during this time of quarantine just hurts. I remember the day that I posted a sign on the door at Shepherd of the Cross, giving notice to any who came by that our building was closed. As I grabbed some tape, I knew that the decision our congregation council made the night before to suspend in person gatherings was the right, and smart, choice. But, it still didn’t take away the ping of sadness and grief that went through my heart as I took that piece of tape and hung that bright yellow piece of paper.

Near and far, businesses and leaders are having to make similar choices. Just recently, Governor Reynolds announced that schools in Iowa would not be resuming in-person classes for the 2019-2020 school year. And, much like I felt as I hung that bright yellow sign on the church door, I agreed with the governor’s decision. It was the right, and smart, choice to protect the health and safety of students and teachers. But, I can very well surmise that an understanding that this decision was the “right thing to do” didn’t take away the ping of sadness and grief that went through the hearts of students – especially our seniors – and teachers when they heard the news.

Often in these days, I’ve heard encouragement to “stay positive” and “look on the bright side.” And, on the whole, I firmly agree with that encouragement. But, more and more, as various things are cancelled or closed, and as experiences and celebrations are postponed or altogether foregone, I’ve also recognized that it is right, and good, and smart, to grieve the losses that we are all experiencing.

Unfortunately, however, grief and loss are often the first to get shoved under a rug in our culture. It might seem easier to just keep going about our life, forgetting about those things that have caused us pain. But the truth is that grief can be “good.” When walking with a family who has experienced the death of a loved one, I often offer them a book entitled Good Grief. The title of the book has two meanings: 1) it voices the phrase “good grief!” that we might say in exasperation, and 2) it voices that grief can be “good.”

For some of us, when thinking back over the last month, it might be easy to think that not much has changed. We might not find ourselves or our loved ones ill; we might not be a senior in high school mourning the loss of experiences; and we might not be pinching pennies at month end. But even still, each of us, in our own way, are grieving the loss of something, something that once was, that right now, isn’t a reality.

So, with that in mind, what are we to do? Well, rather than shoving our grief under a rug, here’s my suggestion: name it. Name the losses that you have experienced during this time. Allow yourself to grieve, just as one would do at the death of a loved one or close friend. And then, offer a goodbye to whatever it is that has been lost. Honor those moments, and those losses, with the gift of a goodbye.

On the whole, there’s something to be said about “looking on the bright side of life.” And, by all means, living in the darkness of grief forever is not the answer either. But, at the same time, we must be honest. And sometimes, being honest might mean naming those realities that we might otherwise want to forget.

So, in the days to come, be honest. Name those losses. And most importantly, be gentle with yourself and with others. Though we might find ourselves grieving, together, we will arise again. Because no matter what happens, we are in this together, as one humanity.