One month after we began this quarantine the newness has worn off. Reality begins to set in, and the reality is that each of us has experienced some loss. Some have lost loved ones, and it is easy to minimize the loss felt by those who have lost less. Loss, though, is still loss. Some have lost jobs, income, friends, projects they had been developing, or dreams for which they were planning. Students have lost school, graduation ceremonies, and proms. Businesses have lost income or closed. Churches have lost connection with people and now they are losing traditional Easter practices. Families are cancelling reunions and are not able to come together to grieve or celebrate.
Some losses are greater than others, but all losses are losses and must be grieved. It is easy to recommend some Pollyanna type advice and say, “Focus on the good.” It is easy to compare your loss to others and feel like you have no right to grieve. Stuffing down your losses and not feeling them will, however, lead you to an eventual collapse. You can’t change your world if you collapse. Grieving losses is essential work for this season so that you are prepared to help others.
It is easy to say you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Truthfully, feelings were made to be felt. Feelings can’t be helped, and feeling a loss is the only way to move forward. Suppressed feelings never go away, they just come out later when they are stronger and able to damage you more. In this age of Coronavirus, you need to feel whatever losses you are experiencing. You need to feel and not compare your loss to another person’s loss. It is ok to feel.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross taught us that you feel grief in five ways: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t follow any order, and each of the feelings may be seconds apart from another. Some deny loss, ignore it, or hide from it behind addiction. Some lash out in anger and try to make others feel their pain. Some try to bargain with God or others (Maybe the toilet paper hoarding has something to do with feeling in control of something and bargaining our way out of danger. “If I only have enough TP I will be ok?”) Some feel depression. Remember, each feeling is an expression of loss and must be felt in order to get to the place of acceptance. Feeling isn’t wrong. Actions are wrong. When we fail to feel, we tend to do wrong things.
We ask “why” in our loss, but we almost never get to a real “why.” Some pretend to know “why” but they fall short of the real “why.” God knows and He isn’t telling us. Maybe God doesn’t tell us why because we wouldn’t understand it anyhow. His plans are not our plans, and He sees our loss from an eternal perspective that at best we see through a “dark glass.” God does, however, tell us “what.” Once we feel our loss, we finally get to acceptance where we can hear His voice tell us what to do next.
Soon, our world is going to need Christians who have felt their own pain and loss. The world will need Christians who can hear God’s voice. We may never, on this side of Heaven, be able to say “why.” We will, however, be able to help others feel their own loss and hear God tell us what is next. We can’t get back what is lost; we can only accept it and look to our future.
Reinhold Niebuhr understood this in his great Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Feel your loss so you are free to change the things you can rather than being stuck in the things you can’t change.