March has become a difficult month for me – and, I imagine, for us all.
As the calendar turns over, I begin to obsessively remember each news alert and developing story as the world changed in 2020.
I remember the day that I went to the grocery store late at night to buy dry goods and bottled water. I remember the meeting at work where we planned out strategies to stay well.
I remember the Wednesday when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, Tom Hanks announced his diagnosis and the NBA postponed their season.
I remember the Friday when schools – already closed for a scheduled holiday – announced their prolonged closure.
March 13, 2020. That was the Friday when my classes at seminary were cancelled, and the preschool where I serve as director closed swiftly and indefinitely.
There were cases all around the U.S., and we knew so little about what was going to come next. There was a chance that we could “flatten the curve” and come out the other side more quickly.
Days and weeks spent at home recovering or doing our best to not spread a disease to those who are vulnerable. Childhoods forever changed and typical celebration milestones were lost. Relationships withered from lack of energy or the opportunity to be together.
Yet, we’ve had to keep moving forward.
Waking up and checking the news to see what has changed, and then going about the day. Fixing meals for the family. Going to work. Engaging with others who are hiding their own feelings as we try to hold some form of social normality between us.
On March 13, after two years of moving and pushing with so little time to breathe, I am going to stop and grieve. I am going to give myself the space and the time to mourn all that we have lost.
We have been robbed of so much by forces largely out of our control, but I am taking this day back. I am going to grieve what I have lost:
- Friendships that I didn’t have the energy to reach out and maintain.
- Family members who have died, without being able to gather with those who loved them to remember and celebrate their lives.
- My children’s spontaneity in choosing activities being replaced by risk calculations.
- Families forever altered and lives lost to this disease that seeks to destroy so much of our humanity as it takes the breath from our lungs and keeps us apart from one another.
I am going to grieve that so much of this, and more, was avoidable. We have failed each other so monumentally and allowed our own sense of autonomy to override the importance of connection.
It didn’t have to be this way. But it is. And it is time to grieve for this reality we continue to trudge through.
On March 13, I am going to slow down. I am not going to seek to accomplish tasks or to contribute to the larger society. I am going to care for myself and my family by slowing down and feeling all that has been lost.
I hope to gather with those in my church, hear their grief and their loss. I hope to spend time remembering those who are gone by saying their names aloud.
Grief informs us of our values as we take stock of what we have lost and feel the absence in our life.
By denying grief, we refuse to acknowledge the extent of what has been robbed from us. By making the time for grief, we realign our values and direct them together. We can recognize what has been stolen and refuse to devalue it by withholding our tears.
On March 13, I will grieve for two years of COVID-19. I will grieve the lives and livelihoods lost. I will grieve a reality we did not choose.