“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” — C.S. Lewis
This pandemic time has brought with it so many losses. They hurt and threaten to overwhelm:
- Loss of life – deaths of family members, friends, leaders, musicians, so many peoples’ loved ones
- Loss of jobs – and the serious uncertainties that come with that – where will the money come from to eat/pay rent?
- Loss of hugs or even casual conversations with people in the grocery store
- Loss of freedom of movement – I hardly go anywhere
- Loss of school as we know it – and the questions that go with that. Can kids learn well remotely?
- Postponed reunions/vacations/weddings
- Loss of shopping as we know it
- Loss of ability to see my loved ones who live across the country. My daughter worried, “Will I ever see you again?”
- Ripple effects everywhere – Air Marino, my favorite airport parking company – closed
Loss can slam us. In 1992 my husband Gene went from just fine to dead in 4 days. I felt unmoored, adrift in a strange world. It took me months, even years, to feel anything like normal again. At first, after Gene died, I coped by staying busy. Working non-stop from dawn until night, I fell into bed exhausted. After awhile I realized this wasn’t sustainable. I needed to face my loss, feel my sadness. So I forced myself to sit quietly on the couch for 30 minutes each day and acknowledge my grief. My beloved Gene was gone. My heart literally ached, as if a hole had been drilled through me. I looked at pictures from our life together, read cute notes he’d written to me. I wept. I experienced many of the things Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talks about as the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance.
Multiply my loss experience about a million times, and no wonder these times feel scary.
Dancing with a limp
Although I couldn’t imagine it then, and I still miss Gene, I have had a wonderful life in the 28 years since his death, including another marriage and widowhood.
We can’t see all of the upside of this pandemic now because we’re still in its throes. But there are signs. So much learning and creativity and resilience. It’s slowed us down, cut toxic emissions, increased the number of people gardening, making art and music. I just attended an amazing conference called LIFT with over 500 entrepreneurs from around the world. The generous-spirited creativity of this group blew me away. I began to see that the global impact might be huge in terms of new energy, new ideas, great creativity, even though there is a lot of uncertainty about how it will unfold.
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” Anne Lamott
The growth of resilience inside each of us and globally may depend on our taking a two-pronged approach to this historic time:
- Acknowledge and take stock of our losses. Make room for grief. Feel the sadness.
- Notice and feel grateful for any of the pandemic’s gifts: a slower rhythm, more innovation, generosity of spirit, learning.
Let’s learn to dance with a limp.
- What are the losses you are experiencing?
- How are you feeling the sadness? Grieving the losses?
- What gifts are you noticing?
- How can they energize you for the next chapter of your life?
- How can you help others accept and move through this difficult time?