We’re grieving

It seems to me that many if not most of us are grieving these days. 

We mourn our dead, of course. Some of us have lost friends or family members to the virus. Others grieve the deaths of loved ones who can’t be honored at a proper memorial service because of restrictions on large gatherings. Without knowing their names, we mourn the 150,000 Americans who have died of covid-related causes.

But there’s more to it than that. We’ve all lost so much more: vacations we were looking forward to, family gatherings and celebrations that can’t happen, jobs. The virus has put limitations on the way we work and serve our communities; it’s restricted the freedom to go where we want to go and do what we want to do in ways most of us have never experienced before. We’re irritable and can’t concentrate and we don’t know why, not immediately recognizing what’s happening as grief.

I’ve been working my way through the book “Winter of the Heart” by Paul D’Arcy and finding it tremendously helpful. It’s oriented toward grieving the loss of people who were important to us, but most of the points it makes about grief are easily adaptable to these other losses.

The work of grief, D’Arcy says, is to gratefully let go of what is no more and reorient ourselves to the possibilities that lie hidden in what is, a transformation that requires letting love open our hearts to create “an open space through which the river of sorrow can flow.” Paraphrasing the late poet and priest  John O’Donohue, she says that there’s an invitation to be found in every moment of our lives, “even in the deepest heartache.”

Although each of us will grieve in our own particular way, one important step is naming our grief and letting ourselves acknowledge and sit with the powerful feelings that accompany it, staying with those feeling for as long as we need to.

I ‘d like to offer here a few more quotes from the book in case they might be helpful to you, wherever you find yourself in all of this:

  • You need a steady diet of things that nourish you and that touch your depth. … Think about what nourishes your inner life. What assists you? Is it music, poetry, nature, loving relationships? Protect a space where you invite those in.
  • Healing asks us to give up our insistence that life will unfold in a certain way. There is no way life should be; there is only life. 
  • All healing journeys begin with one word: yes.
  • A time of grief is a time of heightened opportunity. There is a clarity and courage we may never have had before.  The grief has swung at our life like a great arm, sweeping away whatever is temporary, narrow, or limited, and giving us the chance to see beyond the surface of things.
  • No one else can tell us that there are blessings hidden in our grief. We must see that for ourselves. But when we are ready to see, the blessings reveal themselves.