A blog written by the Rev Liz Blythe, Locum Minister
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t done nearly as much around the house as I thought I would have by now. I mean, we’ve been at home now for 12 days. Generally speaking, I’d have thought 12 days was enough for my house to be pristine – all the clutter gone, all the dust eradicated, the bathroom sparkling. By now I thought I would have moved to the garden.
My mind had rested on all these tasks, but I feel absolutely unmotivated to do them.
The feeling goes beyond my general laziness – getting myself into the garden to clean it is always a chore – I feel I’m doing just about all I can manage right now. It feels like I am treading water. Everyone is getting fed and homework is getting done, but there’s not much bandwidth left for more.
Perhaps that’s why the title of an article I saw on line drew me in. It was: The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief. The article had me at the title. I knew, right then, that whatever the inside said, the title was right. It turns out the article was pretty right, too.
It’s a brief interview with a renowned grief expert, David Kessler. Kessler says, “The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively.” We’ve each got so many things we’re grieving. Children are grieving not seeing their friends and the loss of class time. Adults are grieving the productive feeling of going to work and the chance to have lunch with friends. Well, you can fill in the list of what you’re grieving. It does help to name it.
One of the things that Kessler says will help is to acknowledge and name our emotions…to validate them. I am sad. But of course, we say, I am sad, but others have it worse. Especially as we are stuck at home, I think we are negating how we feel because we know there are NHS workers and grocery store workers and police and all sorts of public servants getting up and going out to work in dire circumstances; so we don’t think we have the right to be glum…I mean, we get the opportunity to stay safely home, right? But David Kessler urges us to stay with the first part of the statement only, I am sad. Kessler says, “Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”
The Psalms are full of this kind of honest acknowledgment of emotions. I’ve always loved the psalms for that. I get frustrated sometimes with the dense poetry, but the emotions!! For instance, Psalm 6:
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?
4 Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
The psalmist gets us! The author of the psalms (ostensibly King David) is, perhaps the most human writer of any section of the Bible. There is hardly an emotion unexplored. Including grief and anxiety (anticipatory grief as Kessler calls it) and sorrow.
Interestingly, David Kessler says that the way to keep from being swallowed up by the grief is meditation (sometimes also called prayer). It’s to recognise the here and now. For example, he suggests breathing deeply and naming 5 things in the room with you – to remind you you are here, right now. “In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.” Now take it one step further and give thanks to God for those things…for what you have rather than what you do not. It is, of course, OK to be tell God about your frustrations and what you are missing, but, when you are trying to be present in the moment, it is important to be grateful, to say ‘thank you’ for what you can; so that the dark cloud of grief does not overwhelm you.
In the week ahead, I hope your garden takes better shape than mine, and that your house is in better order, but that we all find time to acknowledge our sorrow and be present in the good of the very moment we are living, holding fast to those we love, and giving thanks to God where we can.