Yes, we are grieving. For the world suffering from our imbalanced relationship with Creation. For the normalcy we’ve lost from ongoing circumstances. For our sense of community, connection, and stability.

We may denote the label of “grief” to some other situation, like a death or personal loss. However, we cannot deny how we’re all collectively feeling. Whether you’re directly affected by the virus or not, things have changed. Even after we come out of the social distancing protocol, everything will be under the guise of “before COVID” and “after COVID,” in the way we describe airports before and after 9/11.

It’s uncomfortable to talk about grief. This ambiguous cloud of emotion doesn’t fit neatly into the five-step model we assume it’ll follow. How we’re all reacting to COVID varies but remains valid nonetheless. No matter where we are, it feels like a looming fog with no end in sight.

Let’s not mince words: this is a trauma. This is a loss. And how we recover and reconcile from this loss will forever change the world.

My chaplaincy education has been preparing me to sit with grief; never did I anticipate that becoming so crucial and necessary for all of Creation, stretching far beyond the hospice settings or even the overcrowded hospitals. We cannot manage our emotions without acknowledging their presence. That’s where our true strength and resiliency as a society will lie and embark on the ultimate test.

With our newly found time and space, how can we best tend to ourselves and others? How can we shepherd the grieving process through its turbulent nature?

Allow the EcoFaith Recovery Practices to guide you. They, in and of themselves, will likely bring forth and name what feels choking and heavy in your chest. A strong foundation comes from our spiritual power, irreplaceable relationships, and the truth which reveals itself in personal stories.

Since this event is unprecedented in our recent history, who is an “expert”? Or at least someone who serves as our mentor to lead us forward? As a chaplain, my role in most settings is as a witness who holds valuable space for those longing to be heard and seen.

There’s no magical answer or cure, no almighty wisdom to impart. What we really need right now is validation without judgment. Complete, radical acceptance, as hard as that sounds. Any form of comparison in our grief, the struggles we may be facing, will only hold us back. The hardest, most painful suffering is yours.

It may take months, even years, to find acceptance and fully restore balance within ourselves and among Creation. We may never recover the sense of physical closeness or general ease while moving through our days. That’s okay. If everything were to suddenly flip back to the pre-COVID lifestyle, what would we have learned?

An often forgotten and misunderstood stage of grief–the “sixth” stage, after acceptance–is meaning. I imagine that seeing some sort of value in what we’re currently experiencing will prove more subtle and personal. We by no means should feel obligated to give gratitude to a deadly pandemic and the ongoing havoc. Where we can express gratitude, perhaps someday, is our solidarity amid drastic diversity, our renewed respect for essential workers, and our resilient spirit that stands united in survival and hope.

Do I hope we take the same drastic measures for the climate crisis? Absolutely. But we are grieving. And when the time is right, we’ll hopefully each recognize the existential threat and perhaps find meaning in COVID as the spark that ignites the resilient flame for restoring Creation. Until then, let’s open our hearts and remain patient as we grieve, feel, and process.

 


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We Are Grieving (by EcoFaith’s Communications Intern Allie Knofczynski)

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