Grief in light of COVID-19

May 30, 2020

Thank you for joining me for “Part B” of the May 30th article!

I write this addendum for those who have suffered any kind of loss, but especially for dear ones who are newly bereaved of a loved one. Each morning, you wake up with an anvil sitting on your chest. You wonder if you will survive the next day, the next hour, the next minute... My friend, I respect your heart pain.

Here are some personal insights that have anchored me through tragic loss. If any of it resonates with you, please grab it, claim it as your own and cling to it!

In the Herald article, I posed this question: “Have you ever wondered how we are to protect ourselves from grief?” We talked about things we can do:

  1. Taking control where you can
  2. Focus on self-care
  3. Start to manage your thought-life
  4. “Just keep doing the next right thing”

We can intentionally “put on” the above-mentioned items, just like wearing a mask and gloves to protect from a virus. However, is it wise to try to fully protect ourselves from grief?

Many grievers initially dress in a full-length, yellow hazmat suit - much to their own peril. We try to overprotect by closing-off. In our pain and desperation, we withdraw from others and stuff down the emotions. In the long run, suppressing grief is unhealthy, and it will backfire.

Well-meaning people may share different prescriptions for you: “Do this or that. You need to be strong.” My simple advice is that you just need to “be human”.

Sadly – so very sadly – life on planet earth involves loss through death. It is part of the human experience. Along with loss, we will experience those God-given emotions. There are good and honorable reasons why we hurt SO much and for SO long. We hurt much because we loved much. Give yourself permission to be human.

Until you embrace grief, you won’t heal.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve been working on my posture since our boys died. No, it’s not that I’m squaring up my shoulders or holding my chin up high! Actually, I am LEANING. Although leaning is not an intuitive stance, it is healthy thing to do.

LEAN into your grief. This, my friend, is the opposite of running, numbing, medicating, stuffing, fencing-off, closing-up… We HAVE to allow ourselves to be authentic emotionally as we process our losses.

Regrettably, it is a common misconception for those at a distance to think that the completion of a funeral marks the end of the grief process. On the contrary, it marks just the start of this uncomfortable journey. I want to encourage you: the healthiest way to navigate grief is to run toward it and not away from it.

You might wonder what “leaning” looks like. I haven’t done this perfectly – but I know that it involves being vulnerable and allowing some others into the mess of it all. Having an open, receptive posture toward others allows them to gently push in and provide comfort (1) by way of presence and (2) a listening ear. You will be surprised how your vulnerability, in turn, gives permission to those around you to let down their guard and be real.

In addition, I have chosen to lean heavily upon Jesus. Did you know that He longs for us to invite Him right into the chaos? He desires for us to trust Him and look to Him for needed strength, hope and courage.

Psalm 31:14

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God”.

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

As you consider how to embrace your grief – so that you can heal – let go of trying to “have it all together”. Consider asking God to carry the overwhelming burden for you. I do this frequently. Ask Him to sustain you daily. I found that each morning, God would portion to me a fresh dose of strength and courage. It was just the right amount that was needed for the day ahead. He was (and continues to be) faithful to do that.

Lam. 3:22-23

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

One day at a time, one small step at a time. Anticipate His new mercies each morning as you lean into Him. I have found that there is only One person who can lift that heavy anvil off my chest: Jesus. Know that He is so very present, dear one. You are not alone.

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Here are three songs whose lyrics have been of huge encouragement to me. Have a listen!

See you again on June 27th!