Pervasive grief is one of the side effects of the uncontrolled pandemic we currently face. People are trying to stay safe and to make sense of what is going on around them. The sheer numbers are beyond comprehension. So, like many others much of my recent reading and writing has circled back to the process of grieving. Perhaps it is the change of seasons, leading me to focus on the seasons that humans pass through. Or, perhaps, it is that my friends who are steeped in organized religion have been talking and writing about Holy Week. Most likely, though, it’s because a dear friend of mine recently lost a long battle with a non-Covid illness.
She died as she lived — with grace and good humor. And this wretched disease kept many of us from being able to support her or her family as fully as we would have liked. We were afraid of incapacitating them by passing along the voracious virus.
We marked her passing with phone calls, cards, and Facebook posts. And like most of the people who have recently lost loved ones, no calling hours or funeral for this grieving group. Emotional pain without the roadmap of customs is a tough pill to swallow.
This experience is helping me beging to understand and appreciate the importance of ritual and gathering as a step in the grieving process. Condolences. Story-telling. Receptions that sometimes go on long enough to break out in laughter… all gone. And, as I start to try to generalize my experience to that of thousands of other families around the world, my heart breaks for them. This is hard.
But it’s not just the funerals we are missing. Passover seders and Easter egg hunts. St Patrick’s day parades. Amelia Island’s famous Shrimp festival. Birthday parties. Going out for coffee dates. Volunteer gigs. Grocery shopping and haircuts. Baseball season. Rituals are designed to ground and connect us. To give us hope. The absence of ritual contributes to the chaos. Chaos and darkness are a powerful combination.
I have only questions at this point— the best I can do is open the conversation. (Please add your observations in the comment section below.)
Here is what some others have to offer on the grieving process.
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. ~ Robert Fulghum
Something that is loved is never lost. ~ Toni Morrison
Grief is a process, not a state. ~ Anne Grant
There is no grief like the grief that does not speak. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
How lucky I am to have something that make saying goodbye so hard. ~ Winnie the Pooh
Grief is the price we pay for love. ~ Queen Elizabeth II after the September 11th attacks
There is no grief like the grief that does not speak Click To Tweet
The five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
A depressing and difficult passage has prefaced every page I have turned in life. ~ Charlotte Bronte.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free. ~ Wendell Berry
Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone. Click To TweetRituals are designed to ground and connect us. To give us hope. The absence of ritual contributes to the chaos. Click To Tweet
The occasion of my “second Covid birthday” prompted me to take another look at this post. How are you doing? Let us know in the comments.
Lore (like "story") Raymond
Appreciating your insights reinforced with the many quotes! I am grieving some lost relationships so Kubler’s 5 stages were helpful as I’ve been meaning to look them up.
There are no words for the loss of your friend. So, a healing hug is attached to these comments for you, Andrea.
We’ve had several deaths that have affected members of my church family, all of them unable to be with their loved ones or say good-bye, or to bury them. I’m coming to realize that maybe we need to find different or new rituals to deal with our grief that don’t need to be so public but more personal for times like these.
So So true! I realized that most of what I am feeling is the grief so familiar to me! I wrote a blog about it and found I’m not the only one saying this. We are all grieving deeply!
Sometimes grief is the non acceptance of love. Not remembering the true essence and meaning of the word love can be difficult for humans who chose to incarnate on this earth. When it is time to leave, when it is time to go, when it is time to evolve, it is through the essence of love not grief. If we see love for what it is, we appreciate every single moment in time. We appreciate all that chooses to walk within our path and we choose love.
The inscription on my tombstone (erected in 1986) says:
Love is stronger than death.
Death is stronger than life.
Though robbed of life, we’re free at last.
Thank you for sharing this.
Zeenat Merchant Syal
Loss brings with it many levels of grief. After the initial shock has passed I often go to The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief. It helps. But it takes its time and it has its own process.
Yes to this: “I am starting to understand the importance of ritual and gathering as a step in the grieving process.” We have lost so much in what I call domestic rituals, mostly due to lack of practice. Maybe we need to have an in-depth look at life stage passages from birth onward and celebrate those as a starting point. Families and communities that are rich in ritual appreciate the bonds that hold them together and offer support and celebration in times of joy and sadness, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, etc. etc. (It’s why I still include those phrases in every wedding and funeral at which I officiate. And it is more than special occasions, it is in living well.