Postponing Grief during the Pandemic
If there are 9,000 ways to be a plant during climate change, there are at least 900 ways to be resilient during a pandemic.
I’ve had several nudges in the last week to help me realize that, while I’ve been practicing gratitude, and calming my nervous system, and discerning options, one essential practice of resilience had dropped off the radar…
Full-on taking the time to be present with, fully feel and grieve, and move through each of the losses, heartaches, disappointments, macro and micro. I have been writing and teaching and guiding others, [see The ABC’s of Working with Difficult Emotions] not a problem, but so much of my efforting was focused outward. Not enough turning inward and attending to the pain of my own sense of loss or dismay or despair. All postponed, over and over and over.
Until my good friend Kathryn sent me links helpful to her at the one-year anniversary of the pandemic shut-down: Brene Brown’s podcast on Comparative Suffering and her interview with grief specialist David Kessler on Grief and Finding Meaning. Both offered almost exactly one year ago at the beginning of the pandemic. Both exactly what I needed to focus my attention on the power of grieving to heal. Both still so relevant and needed one year later.
I’ve done a lot of self-inquiry, of course, into why I used so many other strategies for coping and glossed over grieving, even coping with my shoulder fracture in December. (All grist for future posts, I’m sure.)
Then I created for myself a Grief Timeline (see the exercise below) to begin to do the good heart-soul work of coming to terms by showing up and being with.
I used for myself what I so often teach others: The ABC’s of working with anything difficult.
A = being aware, allowing, accepting, this is what’s happening. (And these are my reactions to what’s happening, including deep and genuine grief.)
B = being with and be-friending. Life is happening this way in this moment, and I am alive to be with it. There may be lessons; there may be silver linings; there may be simply the message of inner heartache and pain.
C = compassion for whatever is happening and for whatever I am experiencing in response to it – sadness, anger, fear, emptiness, despair. The compassion re-opening the space to breathe and be with and move through.
Then I created a timeline (truth be told, I’m still in this process) of all the events I could remember during this last pandemic year that were losses, disappearances, never again’s.
Even though I had somewhat glossed over them at the time, being so busy coping and staying afloat, now taking the time to ABC each one, no matter how big (no more traveling to teach anywhere, even my beloved Spirit Rock Meditation Center just down the road), no matter how small. (Not being able to pick up my cats with a fractured shoulder, though of course that didn’t seem small at the time).
The timeline would get crowded sometimes; other times a long stretch where life was going along, not “normal” but good enough.
What’s really good enough is doing this grieving now. It’s not overwhelming; it’s healing and helping me move from heartache to hope in a truly resilient way.
Truly, may this practice be useful to you and yours.