Loss is experienced as a downward pull into the deepest places in our being that we call grief. Author and educator Karla McLaren refers to that place as “the deep river of the soul.” She describes it:

“Grief is a beautiful, languid and powerful emotion that arises when death occurs, be it actual death or the death of profound attachments, ideas or relationships. Grief does not simply bring water to you as sadness does; grief drops you directly into the river of all souls.”[1]

Grief is a normal response to a loss and the covid-19 virus has exposed many layers of loss as we realize that many parts of our lives we have taken for granted have been unavailable to us since mid-March and go on with no predictable end in sight.

One of the most difficult losses has been the gift of gathering together for worship, music, learning and celebrating. From the simple experience of a quick hug in the narthex, a smile as we pass in the hall, to gathering to mourn and celebrate the life of family or friends who have died during this time is lost. We can no longer comfort or encourage each other with touch and closeness.

Our losses as a community are echoed and magnified in human losses in the wider world.

And it’s not over.

Losses that go unmourned go underground and get triggered by each new loss. Grief is cumulative. In the work of mourning we must:

  • Accept the reality of the loss
  • Feel the painful feelings and express them through tears, voice, physical movement, journaling, music, etc.
  • Adjust to the altered environment, acknowledging how life has changed
  • Be open to new experiences and new ways to do relationships

We don’t “get over it” or “let it go.” We absorb the loss into our lives until it becomes an integrated part of ourselves. Grief is painful, hard work and most of us prefer relief from it rather than doing the emotional and spiritual growth that comes with working through it. There are no “stages”; grief is not linear but tends to swing back and forth between coping with the pain of loss and the effort to create a new life with all of our complex emotions.

Every week we profess to believe (trust) in the presence of God, “in all things seen and unseen.” Can we hold on to that trust in the darkness of separation and isolation and recall that God is indeed present in all that looks like chaos and disorder?

In the enduring words of St. Julian of Norwich during the plague in the late 14th century:

“All shall be well,
and all shall be well
and all manner of thing shall be well.”