Thoughts on mourning and loss in the time of coronavirus

Grief shows up in many ways. One way it may tend to show up is anger or rage. Since that is not easily recognized as “grief” in our culture, we tend to combat the rage or anger instead of stepping back to ask a few more questions.

Grief over loss isn’t easily processed in our culture because we don’t have the time. Guess what? WE HAVE TIME. What are we doing with it?

The past several years I have had a sense of the need to truly lament and, as a whole, we have miserably failed. We are in tremendous cultural shifts and we are not processing these shifts well… and by “we” I am referring to believers. We are lousy at lamenting.

We have probably less that 2 weeks before things spring back into action and we lose any sense of evaluation in what all of this means in the time of coronavirus. I want to suggest, again, we need to take advantage of this very short window and actually process our grief.

We are in a time of loss.

We can get into our echo chamber arguments, but let’s try and set those aside and go with numbers that are reported… agree with them or not. Just suspend your version of reality for a minute.

I will wait.

Okay… so you’re not going to give the numbers any credence… so I’m going to ask those folks to step away…

I will wait.

All right. Numbers.

We will go over 50,000 deaths from coronavirus on this day. We will approach 900,000 confirmed cases. We need to understand something here: none of us have faced those kinds of numbers in our nation in our lifetime. Not outside of war. And those death toll numbers are about to surpass the lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War. (Years of war… and we have lost that number in less than 5 months.)

Friends… this is loss.

Jobs lost. We have lost 22 million jobs in a month. NOTHING has approached that number. Ever.

Small businesses will have shuttered to ride out the virus… and they won’t reopen.

Those unemployed will have lost wages… then back-rent… then insurance payments… then credit card bills… all will come due.

Friends… this is loss.

Seniors in high school and college will go without graduation and all the celebration that comes with those milestones.

Friends… this is loss.

Church has changed. There is a grieving over the shifts we have had to make. We may have a deeper longing to actually be together! (But, we have to do it responsibly and that will take more time.)

Friends… this is loss.

We have grief. For some, that comes out in anger or other forms that look like rage. For some it is found in what we would call “typical” forms of depression.

I would suggest a lot of it is a sign of loss and mourning. We are in a major shift and we are mourning things that have been taken away. There is also fear of what is ahead.

Recognize the loss. Recognize the fear.

Mourn your losses.

What are you doing with your losses? Are you hiding them? Are you pretending they aren’t real? Are you refusing to share them with your fellow travelers? Are you blaming others for what you’ve suffered and lost?

The invitation is to mourn them.

Henri Nouwen in a little book called Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit offers these helpful insights:

It is better to mourn that to deny.

In human brokenness new life is born. True healing begins when we face the reality of our loss. We have to let go of the illusion of control.

There is a time to weep and a time to laugh (Eccles. 3:4). It is interesting that in that verse “mourning” and “dancing” are tied together. There are times for each movement in our lives.

A key: connect your suffering with that of the larger world. Learn the connection, also, between human suffering and God’s suffering. Don’t think, “Well, what I’m going through is so small in comparison with…” Understand that your pain IS what is connected to the rest of humanity… and ultimately to God.

Live in community. Check up on each other. I have a financial planner who has weekly video chat sessions with helpful presentations and a LOT of people log on. Do they log on for the market analysis of the week? Some may, but I suspect a lot of them log on because they don’t want to feel alone. The connection is important to them.

Our church has moved small groups to Zoom. I am not a fan of Zoom, but in this time I love Zoom. People are hungry to stay connected.

Make phone calls. Send texts. Let people know you’re thinking of them!

Most of all, discover the One who walks beside you. He is the God in the valley as well as the God on the mountain top. He stood at the tomb of Lazarus and wept.

Again, I make an attempt to invite us to something I believe is from the Spirit. Let us mourn.

We are in a time of loss. We are in a time of great shifting. We need to mourn those losses. We need to lament.

And when we come out of this time, we will know the dance of joy.

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