GRIEF MAY VISIT DURING PANDEMIC
You are not alone, and I believe there is a Companion in your journey
This is the second instalment in a series on grief by writer Shauna Caldwell, who lost her twin sons in an accident in 2016. Her pieces will appear on the Faith page of the Calgary Herald on the last Saturday of the month for the next few months.
Passing the shop window, I stopped cold, startled by my own reflection. Who is that stranger looking so tired, numb and distressed?
Has this happened to you recently?
People are hurting everywhere during the COVID -19 pandemic. Changes in personal circumstances — especially losses — have ushered in an intruder called grief. It brings messy and confusing emotions. I respect and make space for those feelings.
Picking one’s way through grief is a humbling and perplexing time of self-discovery. Loss strips us down. It leaves a person wondering, “Who is that in the window?”
Currently, the world is laser-focused on how to protect against an invisible virus that can breach and overtake our immune systems. Obediently, we wear masks, wash hands, distance socially, while attempting to deal with this microscopic menace.
Have you ever wondered, though, how we are supposed to protect ourselves from grief? Here, too, we are dealing with another kind of unseen invader! It has arrived in tandem with lost routines, isolation, cancelled plans and uncertainty surrounding work, finances or health.
Everything was going along just fine. Then we were isolated. Then work slowed. Income stopped. Simple daily routines stopped. Investments plummeted. Companies shuttered. Schooling began at home. Stress soared. Things that once defined us have been taken away. It is hard to cope. Suddenly, we catch a glimpse of that distorted reflection in the window. How did we end up here?
We never realized how life’s rhythms anchored us in a healthy way, providing security, comfort and contentment. Boring routines or “givens” in life now appear as things to be treasured! I discovered this truth when our twin sons died at the age of 17. A few weeks after the accident, I was in the grocery store filling a bag with apples. I froze as I realized that I don’t need all these apples any more. I fled from the store in tears.
Helplessness is a common feeling associated with grief. The inability to exert control over our circumstances is paralyzing. Although life feels so out of control and scary, you need to identify areas that you can take control of — in a healthy way — while still permitting yourself to experience those God-given emotions. Self-care: It’s back to basics. Eat well, drink water, keep moving or exercising and get a good sleep. I encourage you to ask your doctor for help if you are struggling. We need routines and structure. It will set you up for success physically.
Be gracious to yourself, accepting your reduced capacity to function. Next steps: Though it is impossible to see very far ahead on the road, just keep doing the next right thing. Even while feeling powerless, you can govern your very next step. It is just one step at a time, and that is OK. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself!
Thoughts: It is an ongoing effort to master the “thought-life.” Managing thoughts can feel as challenging as handling the gas pedal while tires are spinning deep in snow. A practical idea is to go for walks. Moving the body and getting fresh air does wonders for breaking the mind out of the spin cycle.
Personally, I had to choose how to think about our circumstances that seemed so unfair. Would I allow this to make me bitter or better? What lens could I look through to kindle courage and hope? (We will explore this topic further in a future article.)
In our personal grief, I knew that my faith would be put to the test. I wondered, “Would my faith in Jesus hold me up in the worst of circumstances?” I feel that a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” These words by Corrie Ten Boom, a Second World War concentration camp survivor, spoke truth that helped me cope.
As you navigate COVID -19 grief, with its losses and changes, keep asking those big questions: Who am I? What purpose do I have? Is there someone who really cares about what I’m going through?
You are not alone, and I believe there is a Companion to help you in your journey. Since the day of our loss, I purposed in my heart to trust the Engineer — through the dark tunnels and the intense emotions ahead, even on the days that I did not understand or feel anything.
Now when I look again at the reflection, I realize Someone is standing beside me.
Please join me for a continuation of this article at: www.evanjordan.ca. Comments? I’d love to hear from you through the website. Next instalment in this series on June 27.
Shauna Caldwell sits at the memorial benches for twin sons Evan and Jordan Caldwell, who died in an accident at Canada Olympic Park in 2016. She is writing a multi-part series of articles on dealing with grief.