Annual Reflections: Grief

As we come to the end of 2020, as with any year, it’s important to look back, embrace the year for what it was, learn from it, and look ahead into the future. Usually, by this point in the year, I already have some idea of direction, plans, goals for the coming year. But this year, I got nothing. Which, if you know me, is really uncharacteristic of me. So, I want to use this time to delve into how this year has impacted me, what I’ve learned, and any glimmer into the year to come.

This year has been hard. For everyone. There has been so much loss. Loss of loved ones, friends, jobs, routines, relationships, plans, trips, dreams. Everyone had to pivot when the pandemic came, some more than others. No matter how you feel about COVID-19 or wearing masks or social distancing, in some way you were affected. And it wasn’t just the pandemic. Social justice, political division, protests, riots. Our world has been in a steady panic attack, one right after another. There is even a term for the numbness you feel after being bombarded with so much, COVID fatigue.

The truth is, we have been collectively and individually going through grief. The denial that all of this would go away in the summer or by the end of the year. The bargaining for answers and quick fixes. The anger. The depression. Even some resigned acceptance. The stages have all been there.

Of course, the Bible embraces the act of grieving. There is an entire book called Lamentations. The psalms are full of grieving verses.

For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

Psalm 31:10

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 13:2

Of course, God can handle our grief. In much of the Bible, it says we can cast our cares on him, that he will lift us up. Even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about those who mourn will be comforted. Grief is not a sign of a lack of faith, but it is an open acknowledgement that this world is indeed broken and in need of God’s healing.

So, before I move on to growth (which will be next week’s topic), I need to grieve. I grieve the lack of travel, less time with loved ones, the impossibility to go to funerals or say last goodbyes in person. I grieve the new uncertainties of school rhythms, seasonal rhythms, community gatherings. I grieve the simple shopping trips, spontaneous family outings, fun indoor kid activities, dance classes at the gym. I grieve the halted traditions of holidays, the hard conversations with loved ones about why we aren’t visiting, the added efforts to keep our kid connected to his extended family. I grieve not being on the same page with everyone, having to explain why we continue to worship from home and attend gatherings exclusively online, knowing that others made different choices. I grieve being able to go on social media without walking away confused, frustrated, and depressed.

This season is hard, even in the most normal of years, but it is especially hard this year. And I want to acknowledge that. If you are grieving right now in whatever capacity, please know that you are not alone. And I pray you feel the presence of God and lean on him, knowing he is walking with you through it all.

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