In 2006, I traveled to New Orleans with my college classmates to participate in relief efforts post a hurricane known as Katrina. Three weeks later, in early April, I was back at school and struggling with some emotions.
As I showered, as I did on a regular basis, I broke down in tears. What was wrong with me? Where did this passion and anger and sadness come from?
I realized, as an introvert and extremely slow processor, that all the mental and emotional anguish of what the Katrina victims had experienced, and what we had assisted with, had finally caught up with me.
Fast forward to last Friday. It had been three weeks since I ran seven miles, as we continued preparation for a post-Easter race. It had been three weeks since the announcement of school closings. It had been three weeks since a virus that no one can see or cure turned our lives upside down.
This weekend I realized that all the emotional anguish was finally catching up to me. That first week I was in fix it mode, the second week, I was adjusting to working remotely from home. And this week, I took out my emotion on people that didn’t deserve it.
If you were one of those people that got caught up in my anxiety, I am sorry.
Similar to grief, we are all reacting to this new reality very differently. All the essential workers out there are continuing their jobs day in and day out, risking their lives checking out our groceries and delivering our mail.
Some people have put on a brave face and kept moving. Some people are spending more time in bed because all of this is too much for their already anxious or depressive minds.
The population of “Stay at home” parents has quadrupled, as working parents have gained more respect for those who continue to thrive with the valuable work they do in the home.
Those who typically work outside the home have learned some hard lessons and attempted some new daily rhythms, in order to adjust to working while there are additional distractions.
Many millions of people have filed for unemployment, praying that the checks from the government will be enough to pay mortgage/rent and feed their families until they can find work again.
Beyond the grief from the actual loss of life, many are grieving for a myriad of legitimate losses.
I grieve with those who won’t graduate in a traditional ceremony like those who have gone before them. I grieve with those who have had to cancel vacations and trips of a life time. I grieve with all the school children who are sad to miss the rest of the school year with classmates and teachers in the traditional setting.
For me, the grief was much more difficult to identify. I am grieving the disruption to a healthy self care routine, started in early 2020.
I took a sabbatical in January (which seems like a life time ago). In hindsight, I am even more thankful for that opportunity and the rest I received. I came back refreshed and had a full month of ministry before Lent began.
I had begun to set more healthy boundaries between home and work.
I was finding a rhythm of connecting with family, friends and co-workers.
I had begun a regular exercise routine, training for a race, for the first time in close to two years.
We had planned a trip to Michigan after Easter for both the race and to see family.
And then three weeks ago, our regular routines hit a brick wall. We were forced into a new reality, most of us kicking and screaming all the way. All the habits I had formed for myself, fell away. And it has taken that amount of that time to truly grieve what has been lost.
I’m slowly recognizing and trying to return to those habits. Ultimately, those practices will sustain me through this trying period. One of the many lessons learned in all of this is that routines are valuable. And when routines are upended, how do we create new ones that continue to sustain us?
Your feelings are valid, whether you began grieving three hours, three days, three weeks after, or three months from now. You are allowed to be sad, angry, confused and disappointed. You are allowed to express those feelings to other people, even if they don’t understand.
As we enter into this Holy Week, my perspective is much different than any other observance that I can recall in my life. What has occurred in the longest three weeks of our lives is mind boggling. But what Jesus experienced in his suffering, death and resurrection three days later is life changing.