Saturday, October 3, 2020

Grief and Covid 19 by Reverend Tom Capo



            For our meditation, I invite you into some writing.  Please take out a piece of paper and something to write with.  Now fold your piece of paper in half long ways. 

            On the left side of the paper at the top, I want you write “I feel peace in my heart about the loss of”, then put a loss that you are experiencing during this time of Coronavirus.  It doesn’t have to be a big loss, but it needs to be something that you feel now.  (pause)

            When we begin I will ask you to read quietly or say aloud what you wrote “I feel peace in my heart about the loss of” and whatever your loss is, and then listen to your inner responses.  On the right side of the paper write all those inner responses—whatever they are, don’t filter them, this is just for you.  Keep writing until it feels like there is nothing else to write.  Then again read quietly or say aloud “I feel peace in my heart about the loss of” and whatever your loss is.  And again write anything that comes to the surface.  You are invited to do this over and over until you feel you are done.  There may be emotions that well up in you as you do this exercise, open up to them.  But if you feel overwhelmed, feel free to shut them down.  I do not want this exercise to cause you distress.  Please take care of yourself. 

            Now take a deep breath.  You can begin. 



            Does this image represent some of what you feel when you think about Covid-19, dark detailess bodies blocked from connection. What feelings does it illicit in you?

I have been talking through Zoom with a number of people in our congregation and people in the larger community over these past six months of Corona-induced isolation.  What seems to be lingering under the surface in many of these interactions is a sense of loss.  It might be a loss of control, loss of security, loss of connection.  With loss comes grief.  And grief can impact people in many different ways.  Perhaps in the ways that Elizabeth Kubler Ross describes in her stages of grief--denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Have you noticed yourself floating between any of these states of being as you endure this time of isolation? 

            What has been happening to us as we face a combination of Coronavirus and certain life events?  Marriages, memorial services, beginning school, starting college?  What about Coronavirus and a lack of emotional, spiritual, mental, and social resources, or Coronavirus and a lack of time, money, food, or any number of things?  Or any combination of issues with Coronavirus?  What I learned as a psychotherapist is the longer we are in between the old normal way of being and a new normal way of being, that in-between time, we are drained of resources, we are more fragile, and we are less likely to take good care of ourselves—we put off meeting our basic needs, and/or we withdraw from those we love and care about, and/or we put off our spiritual practices, practices that help us maintain an internal sense of peace.  As Tara Haelle writes our surge capacity is depleted, and things we normally do or thing we handle relatively easily become increasingly difficult.  We might find ourselves lacking focus or direction or motivation.  All these can be signs of grief and/or exhaustion.  And my friends, we are all experiencing losses and exhaustion right now, however they may manifest for each of us. Many of us need to find ways to consistently and intentionally manage this grief and exhaustion, because Covid-19 is not going to magically disappear one day. 

            Sometimes a story can offer us some insight when we are experiencing trying times. Let’s look at the story of Granny’s ride. You might have been curious how it would turn out.  Maybe you put yourself into each of those characters and wondered what it might be like to be Granny, or Smart the horse, or the enchanted hare. Granny’s life had been utterly routine, unchanging for years and years, sorta sounds like how I have been feeling during this past six months.  She gets up in the middle of the night, by mistake, and stumbles into an adventure that required all her bravery.  Is that you?  Smart the stalwart horse was called on to be that partner who modeled calmness in the face of danger.  Is that you?  The hare had been hunted for who knows how long, always scared, searching for allies, longing for transformation.  Is that you? Getting behind the things you are scared of, what does that look like?  Keeping calm in the face of danger, how do we do that?  As Granny reflected on this adventure: “We carried on, that’s all we did.”  How are you “carrying on” these days?

            Stories offer a way to look differently at life, to ask ourselves questions, particularly questions about ourselves; how we would respond, how we might do more, or do differently, if we had to, if we were in those circumstances.  Well, my friends, we are in different circumstances.  What if someone, a year or so ago, told you a story about yourself in a pandemic?  Could you have seen yourself being brave or stalwart or transformed during it?  Could you have wondered how you might get behind it?  Or calm during it?  Or jump into action when faced with it? 

             And now we all are in the in-between routine of just living in it, facing loss and exhaustion.  How are you carrying on now that the story is real?  Is it the same way you might have imagined?  How has Covid-19 shaped the story you are telling about yourself?  And I ask you to think about this: is it time to change the narrative of that story? What place does grief have in that narrative now?  The starring role?  If so, and if we’re ready to do so, how do we change that?  My friends, unfortunately the only way to avoid grief is not to live.  Being that we are all still very much alive, we can choose to change our relationship with grief.  I believe we must recognize, attend to, and honor our grief. Not to make the star of the story, but a part of the story.  We will have to notice that there are both recognized and as yet unrecognized losses weighting on us, exhausting us. We will need to take time to give attention to those losses; and honor those losses by giving them the light of day—maybe through writing, singing, creating art, or giving voice to our losses, perhaps sharing them with someone we trust.  And we don’t realize that we can be transformed by grief as well as that we can transform grief.  Let’s move into a few minutes of meditation and sit with that concept a bit.

            Take a slow deep breath and let your attention turn within yourself.  Listen for that still small voice within you, that inner stirring of the soul, that offers you direction, that aids you in your discernment.  Settle into that connection.

            Now read over what you wrote during the meditation, not looking for details.  Let the stirrings of your soul guide you to a word or a short phrase in what you have written.  A word or phrase that lights a way for you, a new way forward, or perhaps a new narrative for your story about loss.  Write down that word or phrase.  Read that word or phrase to yourself a few times, either quietly or aloud. Notice what it offers you—hope, joy, direction, connection to person or spirit…whatever it offers you.  Allow yourself to accept what is offered in the spirit of gratitude. 

            I invite you to keep that word or phrase with you, in your mind or perhaps keep it on a piece of paper on your desk or taped to your computer, or somewhere, or someway so you will be see it or hear it or somehow be reminded of the blessing, the renewal of spirit, the opportunity it offers.  You are embarking on an adventure now, a new way relationship with grief.  In the light of this blessing, how will you choose to tell the story of who you have become during Covid-19 now?

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