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COVID 19 and the Transformative Gift of Grief

COVID 19 and the Transformative Gift of Grief

by Linda Cherek

I am on Richard Rohr’s email list and receive daily opportunities to reflect on his wisdom and faith.  In a recent Daily Meditation, Richard Rohr talks about “our current global crisis as a collective initiation experience…In a time of global crisis, it may be that reality is revealing itself to us-through great suffering-universal patterns that are always true”.  In this current global crisis we are also coming face to face with our own mortality and the fragileness of life as we know it.   We recognize all the things and people we have developed attachments to and are experiencing a threat to those attachments.

When attachments are threatened or we experience the loss of attachment, grief becomes ever more present in our life.  We are a culture that Is death/loss denying and death/loss defying.  Some of us ignore, stay busy or simply choose or refuse to give our grief and loss the attention it requires.  Our current experiences of loss because of COVID 19 may seem confusing to us, unsure what to name and claim as a loss.  Ambiguous loss, that loss experience, as Pauline Boss defines in her book, Ambiguous Loss, is broken into two parts: the first “is when a person is physically present but psychologically absent.  The second type…is when there is a physical absence but a psychological (emotional) presence.”

We are collectively experiencing multiple losses with COVID 19 and the questions that surface can seem overwhelming.  For some, there is a loss of the physical presence of family because of quarantine or hospitalization.  COVID 19 is a threat to every person in our world and it impacts our financial security, food security, the security of shelter and health.  Some may experience feelings of anger or sadness, worry which is fear, and a loss of trust in the world we thought we could trust. Most anything we may care about or what gives our life meaning is an attachment that is threatened.  We are fearful about a future we do not control or can influence and that includes the fear of life ending as we know it, physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. This is what we name as grief and for some it is anticipatory grief, anticipating what might or could be lost because of this virus and the threat to health and life.

Dr Alan Wolfeldt, PhD an author, educator, and grief counselor recently shred his thoughts and strategies to grieve our losses through this pandemic.  When we acknowledge and process our grief we are mourning.  I will share his six basic “mourning needs”;

  • Acknowledge the reality of the pandemic as well as your grief
  • Honor all of your feelings
  • Practice gratitude for the good in your life
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Search for meaning
  • Reach out to others to give and accept support

To work our way through these tasks of mourning will take commitment, perseverance and trust in yourself, trust in the “helpers” and trust in God.  We have to do our part by being informed and doing what we can to stay well.  God gave us all a mind and intellect, a free will and beautiful hearts and spirits to use with love toward ourselves and others.  Rediscover self-compassion and compassion for others. Feel what your heart and the Spirit invites you to feel, without fear. The kind and gracious heart grows with gratitude for the good in our lives. As Ignatius teaches, notice the good in your life and notice Spirit guiding and sheltering you. All life experiences have meaning if we take the time to notice and reflect on them.  Again in the spirit of Ignatius, in what ways can exploring the meaning this pandemic experience is having on us provide a deeper meaning for our life, physically, spiritually, emotionally?  Where will you let yourself explore how God is present in your grief and mourning?  Notice the smallest of movements within that open your awareness of God.  Then in this renewed awareness reach out to others and accept the support you may need in this moment and give the support you can to others.  When we grieve, the support of others is a gift. Be the gift you can be through video or phone calls. Notes and cards or letters of support, prayer and other acts of care and concern while maintaining the appropriate physical boundaries.  Dr Wolfeldt says that “grief is always a transformative experience”.  We can collectively work toward the transformative common goal of global healing in all areas of life.

We are all in this liminal space of uncertainty, however, imagine our collective and compassionate hearts reaching toward and not away from each other to live better, love more deeply, and gather our world in our collective arms and hold on as we acknowledge our grief, mourn our losses and experience the transformation in the world and the initiation into a world of deeper love, deeper compassion and healing of our grief and losses.

Over the next six weeks, Spiritual Directors, here at Loyola, will define and explore the “basic mourning needs” with the intention of supporting us in noticing that the Spirit of hope is within each one of us.  Notice where the Spirit will be guiding you and be willing to explore an amazing adventure of opening to the Spirit of God because of this Pandemic. We are all being initiated into a transformed way of living.  It is in the living our grief will be consoled, we will create a different normal and find joy and love for life in a different way. We are all on the journey together. Isn’t that an amazing idea?

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