Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.
Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched. At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous. I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.
Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.
Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions.
I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers. Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status.
Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill.
We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future. Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.
The worst grief is always yours.
This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.
This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others.
It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own.
What has been helping me:
Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.
Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.
Using this app.
My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.
A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive.
I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.
May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.
Lord have mercy.