Pandemic Grief

Short Reads

We are all grieving.

With the closures, cancellations, and confusion about the future, we are all in a state of grief.

In a previous post, I outlined my theory that the human condition is one of grief with grief defined as the emotional reaction to loss or change.

I developed an image to illustrate the impact of grief when our expectations or hopes are suddenly changed.


When I wrote that piece a few weeks ago, I could not have known the situation we would find ourselves in with the pandemic spread of COVID-19. Nor could I have predicted the pandemic spread of grief.

We are all grieving.

Some of us are grieving canceled plans and dashed hopes. Some are grieving financial losses and insecurity. Some of us are grieving for the sick and those who have died. Some are grieving for the sense of control that exists in times of normalcy.

So what are we to do with this pandemic grief?

My advice is the same advice I give to anyone who finds themselves caught under grief’s riptide: feel it.

Write down what you are feeling. Talk to a trusted family member or friend. Express the emotions as they come to you.

This is a weird moment in the life of the world. Nothing like this has ever happened, at least not in modern times. It is okay to not be okay, but if you don’t express the full constellation of what you are feeling those emotions will express themselves on their own terms in their own time.

Here is something I have learned in my life and ministry: grief waits.

It will wait to be felt.

You will find yourself crying in your car in the grocery store parking lot or lashing out over something mundane or minor. You will feel a weight build on your shoulders over days and weeks.

Grief also connects with or triggers previous grief. The dramatic and sudden loss we have all experienced in the last two weeks has no doubt brought up other times in your life when you felt a sudden and dramatic loss.

At the beginning of the outbreak in America our dog, Jackson died. I found myself in the veterinarian’s office sobbing much like I did after my parents died. It was as though the death of my beloved companion tapped into a well of grief that always exists deep in my soul.

The grief that has come with this pandemic has probably tapped into your own well of grief. You may find yourself feeling what might seem like a disproportionate level of grief in this moment. Once you see that grief compounds and waits, it becomes clear.

This brings me to my second piece of advice: be gentle with yourself.

As I said above, this is an unprecedented moment in modern human history. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to not understand what you are feeling. It is okay to be grateful and scared – at the same time. It is okay to feel whatever you feel.

The key at this moment to hold everything loosely. To watch your feelings as they arise and float away.  No feeling is forever or final but you must feel what you feel.

We are all grieving. The path we were walking has been interrupted. The work now is to accept the new path we find ourselves traveling. To mourn what has been lost and look with clear eyes to the road in front of us.

God is still God.

God is with us here on this new road.

God is more present to us than we are to ourselves.

God is for us – even now in this new moment.

May you feel what your are feeling. May you hold it all loosely. May you be gentle with yourself and those around you.

May we all hold each other’s grief until the way becomes clear.





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