Shelter in place
As we shelter in place, let's give ourselves space to grieve the loss of our normal lives.

I awoke this morning without the help of my alarm. The sun was shining and for a moment I was in sweet bliss, so rested and renewed. 

As I emerged into consciousness, reality settled back over me like a veil: pandemic; isolation; social distancing; state of emergency; market crash; unemployment skyrockets; uncertain future.

We’re in the midst of a cultural moment unlike any other, when the entire world is grieving all at once for the life that was our lives before. Some things have been canceled, some things have been paused and others have been stolen. 

I think of my friends who are preparing to graduate from high school or college grieving their proms, graduation ceremonies and most of all their lost time with beloved classmates and teachers. My newly pregnant friend who is unable to have her pregnancy confirmation appointment due to quarantine. My friends who recently gave birth who cannot welcome friends and family to their homes to meet their infant. 

There are so many small moments, simple rhythms lost as well in this season. I’m grieving the shared laughter around our workplace, glances exchanged across the room, hugs and shared meals. The anticipation of trips that have been canceled and social gatherings that have become virtual meetings. I’m weeping for the people in our community who have lost their jobs, closed their businesses, who have lost their sources of food, who have sheltered in place in homes that are unsafe. 

In this moment, there are so many big things vying for our energy and attention that this list of losses pales in comparison to. 

As I write this, we’re still on the front end of this pandemic in our state and very few lives have been lost. At this point, our healthcare system hasn’t been overloaded. As we brace ourselves for what’s ahead, I am achingly aware that there will be much more lost in the days ahead. 

I’m not particularly good at feeling pain; in fact, I’m somewhat of an expert at avoiding it. I would much rather find something fun to distract myself or numb myself from the pain. That’s what I’m seeing happen online right now, too: an excessive number of positive distractions.

Trite Facebook quizzes and memes litter my News Feed as we all pour ourselves a drink and load up on junk food, numbing and distracting ourselves away from the pain. I’ve been doing it too, and it feels like sweet relief for a few minutes to self-soothe. 

Yet, I’m also convicted that I must also give myself space to process the emotion of it all, to grieve what is lost. Numbing my feelings right now won’t take them away, it’ll only postpone them. 

So, each day, I’m spending some time in quiet contemplation, bearing my heart to God through journaling, prayer and meditation. I’m checking in with my tribe of friends and family and we’re sharing our real feelings with each other. I’m crying when I need to cry, and I’m giving myself space to be angry that the things I loved, the rhythms and routines I cherished, are gone, maybe for now, maybe for good.

As I surrender to the grief, an inkling of hope emerges from the darkness. Hope that this time is being used for our good. Hope that we are being refined and restored. Hope that we’re shaking off some of the bad habits that our disconnected society has built up through years of artificial connection.

Hope that we’re becoming who we were always meant to be, that our core values are being lived out and that our relationships are deepening as we distance. Hope that we are letting go of cultural divisiveness over trivial things and remembering that we all belong to each other, and we always have.


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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.