We are children of loss living in a season of grief.
I personally know four frontline medical workers who are exposed to the virus every day. As a nurse practitioner in downtown Atlanta, my daughter Estie checks people for COVID-19.
Elizabeth Dawson works in a Seattle ICU, watching patients die on ventilators.
Charles and Ryan are EMTs who daily wear hazmat suits and pick up the infected.
The rest of us live in varying states of denial and fear watching all that we considered “normal” being taken from us.
We may feel locked into a place of impotence, yet there is work to do if we are ever to exit this season of loss and begin to recover. It’s the work of grief.
When we love, we commit to heartbreak. Anything or anyone who we love deeply will one day break our hearts. That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others.”
Living in proximity to people brings with it the inevitability of trespassing into territory they are guarding – stepping on their toes. The alternative is to live in isolation. And as we’re experiencing, that’s even worse.
To live whole-heartedly, we must embrace and grieve our losses. It is how we both love and say goodbye to them. It’s how we move on, treasuring all that they gave us, while still open to the gifts each new day might bring.
David Whyte, the philosopher-poet, gives us a beautiful picture of this dynamic in his poem about grief.
THE WELL OF GRIEF
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,
turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering,
the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.
It’s not enough to curse the virus. We need to grieve all that it has taken from us.
I grieve the peace it has stolen from me.
I grieve the people that I can’t see, the relationships that are on hold.
I grieve the dreams that I’ve had to set down.
I grieve for the pain others are going through. For those who are older in Spain being taken off ventilators and suffocating. It is a horror to contemplate.
I grieve the fear being transplanted into the spirits of so many young people.
We are losing so much. What have you lost and are losing in this sheltering season?