I have felt an abiding feeling of sadness lately, both in myself and in the people with whom I have spoken on the telephone. I expected that this pandemic would generate feelings of fear and uncertainty, but where is the sadness coming from?
On reflection, I realize that the sadness is grief. So many people have had to give up so much because of this virus. Long-anticipated trips have been cancelled. Plans for retirement have been delayed. Rites of passage like marriages and graduations have almost all been postponed. There is loss there. There is grief.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross articulated her five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and finally Acceptance. Do some of those feelings sound familiar to you? They surely do to me.
In my own experience with grief, both as a person and as a pastor, I have found these stages to be useful markers of progress, but I have also learned that they are not linear. Grief’s path towards acceptance is a windy one, it often circles back on itself and we often have to cover the same ground more than once.
But, here’s the blessing: From our previous experiences with grief, we know that it is both predictable and temporary. Weeping may spend the night, the Psalmist says, but joy comes in the morning. Grief does not last forever.
In Genesis 2, God brings all the animals in the Garden of Eden to Adam and asks what Adam will call them. This story establishes Adam’s authority over God’s creation; the one who gives a name to something claims power over it. So, here’s my advice: Name your grief, and claim your power.
God says in Revelation 21, that there will be no grief when we dwell with him in the New Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of God. “See, I am making all things new,” God says. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” I was with you when you started and I will be with you when you finish. Beginning and end, and everything in between.
In the midst of all this grief, let your faith be your consolation and let God’s faith be your hope.