It is normal, and right, to be grieving in this moment. We grieve for the normalcy we’ve lost, the friends and family we cannot see, the horrors we hear and read about on the news and our social media feeds.
Grief during quarantine is normal but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to bear. But there’s something else there too, buried deep beneath our grief. It’s here, in the midst of our grief, that our compassion and hope are waiting to be cracked open.
A Story of Grief Discovered
Lush flowers in tall vases filled the room, black-shirted servers passed silver trays of tempting hors d’oeuvres, and the dimmed lights made the evening, and everyone in it, look a little glamorous and fabulous.
I fell into conversation with the man next to me. He was the head of marketing for a large American firm and had returned from a trip to India. It had been three weeks since he came back to the US, but the poverty he had witnessed there had shaken him.
He was struggling to reconcile what he had seen with the privilege and certainty of his current life.
“How do you live with so much poverty in India?” he asked.
“Some people shut it out because it’s constant and overwhelming,” I responded. “If you let it in, it makes you feel guilty, powerless, and helpless.”
I paused. I didn’t know if I could share what I really wanted to say. Then, I decided to say it anyway.
“But, if you can look beyond that and face how it really makes you feel, seeing what people have to go through up close cracks you open. It teaches you compassion.”
I saw a glimmer of understanding sweep over his face. He nodded in response and began to talk about his faith and the polarity between his life of abundance and the dire need he had witnessed.
My Grief During Quarantine
Today, in the crucible of the walls of my home, I have the same sense of constant overwhelm. I experience guilt, anger, powerlessness, hopelessness, sadness, and unbearable grief. The emotions seem more intense than they have been in a long while.
I feel as if I am in a snow globe watching world events swirl around me as we all sink in the soft snow of death, tragedy, and grief. With mounting deaths, sickness, financial struggle and ruin, rising anxiety, depression, domestic abuse, and more, even the clear air we are breathing now seems heavy and filled with sadness. The degrees of separation between me and the virus keep shrinking. The stories of people who have lost loved ones envelop me beyond statistics.
When I speak to my mother living by herself thousands of miles away, she reminds me not to worry for her, but to pray. To pray for family, friends, everyone, for the city, for the town, for the planet.
Crack Your Heart Open
As Leonard Cohen wrote in his popular song, “Anthem:”
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Through the constant grief, my heart is cracked open. The strength we find to live in the midst of it all is like the daffodil that lifts its head in springtime.
Funny memes and videos lighten my day. Mixed in with the grief is unbelievable gratitude for my family, for the moments of connection with others through technology, for the caution my mother exercises, my friends, doctors, and workers on the frontlines, for the presence of nature, food, and faith.
Into the cracks of my broken heart, light has come pouring in. Most of what filled my days before seems unnecessary, unmindful, and insensitive. I am not the same person who entered the lockdown. Hope is the hardest love we carry for ourselves and for the human race. And, when all seems lost, compassion lets the light in.
How are you doing? What are you grieving during quarantine? What’s helping you keep going? What are you most grateful for? I’d love to hear what you have to share.