On Monday I woke up to the tragic news that someone I knew had died of the coronavirus. I didn’t know them super well but I knew them well enough for it to hurt. When was the last time someone you knew died? Has someone in your circle of relationships died of the coronavirus in recent days and weeks? The loss hurts a lot – an awful lot.
There is another sort of loss we are experiencing at the moment – the loss of how life used to be as we embrace this new normal. I know it’s nothing compared to the loss of life but people have lost jobs and lost income and are living in very real hardship.
More mundane but none the less significant many people have lost the ability to do what they love. My two boys love badminton and normally train, play and compete more than 10 hours a week each. Now their best options are hitting the shuttle against the bedroom wall or a few hits in our small garden if it’s not windy. What do you love to do and how has that been effected by coronavirus?
We are going through a season of loss and that experience is not easy. Many years ago when I was at vicar factory we studied the five stages of grief and loss which were first conceived by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It explains what happens when people lose a loved one or something in life they value greatly…
The first emotion we experience is shock and denial and a sense ‘this is not happening to me’. There was plenty of denial going around at the start of the coronavirus pandemic even amongst some global leaders.
Then secondly there is the feeling of deep anxiety and anger as we ask, ‘why me?’ or ‘why my loved one?’ Even those people who do not appear visibly impacted by the coronavirus are experiencing disturbing levels of anxiety. That anxiety is physically and emotionally exhausting.
The third stage people who experience grief and loss go through is a sense of helplessness, despair and even depression. We start to believe ‘there is nothing I can do’ and the world becomes a darker place. There are many people worldwide who impacted by the coronavirus feel in a dark place right now.
Fourthly we begin to ask questions about meaning, ‘why is this happening to me?’ and ‘what is the purpose of my life?’ The coronavirus has caused a great deal of grief and loss that it is really hard to come to terms with let alone find meaning in.
Finally there is a feeling of acceptance and adjustment about the new circumstances, ‘I am ready to move on and create a new life for myself’. We are now living in a new normal where our world is going through a dramatic ordeal, life will never return to what it was before so we are looking for fresh meaning and purpose.
The stages of grief are a really helpful way of understanding the emotions of loss we are feeling right now. It doesn’t make it easier but it does help us see that our feelings are normal and there is a way forward.
I also find it helpful to remember that whilst there are things we have lost there are things we have gained. There is more time with our family, a greater sense of neighbourliness, a more simple life, the space to read a book, or learn a new skill.
Most importantly God is with us. The Bible describes him as ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Can I encourage you take a few moments now to be still and ask God to comfort you so you can comfort others today.
By Matt Bird, Founder of Cinnamon Network International
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