Human beings need connection – physically, person to person. That was brought home to me a couple of Sundays ago when I returned to church for the first time. Yes, we were spaced out and we wore masks. But people were still recognisable and smiles were still discernible – because we smile with our eyes. Safely distanced I also had a real and meaningful conversation.
It has been wonderful to be able to attend ‘virtual church’ on Sunday mornings and, like many of us, I have been on Zoom to meet up with groups I belong to. But, of course, it has not felt the same. And nor would it. Walking home from church, I realised that my feelings have been confused during this prolonged period of lock down, social distancing, easing of restrictions, tightening them again and releasing them again. I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore ideas and do projects that being restricted has afforded me. At the same time I feel uneasy. The rhythm of life has changed. Things I took for granted, everyday things, I have to think about. Do I feel safe doing that? Am I allowed to do that? Is that wise?
Insight into what I was feeling came to me in an email. It contained an interview with David Kessler, who with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the well known book ‘On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss’. Though the interview took place at the height of the pandemic in March, I found his observations still pertinent. ‘Yes’, he says, ‘we are grieving’ and doing so for a number of losses.
We feel the world has changed and though we know some of it is temporary, it doesn’t feel that way. We know the ‘new normal’ will be different, but what will it be like? What will be different? The loss of what was normal, the fear of economic loss and the loss of connection have created an unseen but real collective grief – and we are not used to it.
We have all lost connection with friends and family, with some of our nearest and dearest. For some of us, the grief may be deeper and more long lasting, because we have lost loved ones permanently and been unable to mourn them and say farewell. Even now, the loss continues for those with relatives in care homes. Current visiting restrictions make the loss two fold – to members of the family and to the person in the home. Others of us have lost jobs and businesses, income, security and identity.
And we haven’t finished yet. Anxiety about loss in the future can create ‘anticipatory grief’. Will there be another corona virus spike in the Autumn? How will it affect me? What is going to happen? The Covid pandemic has been like that all along, an unseen and unseeable threat until it strikes. We know it is out there and that undermines our sense of safety.
To feel a sense of loss and bewilderment is fine. To find that I am not the only one feeling these feelings is comforting and to understand these feelings as grief is a good start.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.