Friendship, Listening, and Empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: Acceptance

Lynne Baab • Thursday June 4 2020

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: Acceptance

Something wonderful happened to me last Friday. I moved to the stage of grief called acceptance after 85 days of deep sadness about so many aspects of the virus. The timing of this acceptance is ironic and almost shaming. How can I stop my intense grieving and begin to feel better about life when my country is in such uproar? What’s wrong with me?

That’s been the theme of the past three months: What’s wrong with me?  Why for 85 days did I seem to feel sadder than almost anyone I know? I was also so, so tired. I know cognitively that fatigue is a significant part of deep grief, but I have felt that something must be wrong with me that I was so tired.

On Saturday, February 29, the first known covid-19 death in the United States happened in a suburb of Seattle. On Tuesday, March 3, we had a conversation with an epidemiologist friend who told us we needed to stay home because of Dave’s chronic lung disease. It took me a few days to wrap my mind about what needed to do, but by Friday, March 6, I was ready to start. I bought groceries, went swimming, and donated blood. As I drove home from the blood bank around 4 pm, the grief started, a voice of roaring pain that continued pretty constantly until last Friday.

Out of so many sad things, I’ll mention some of the more intense sources of grief. In those early weeks, I missed church, swimming, the gym, and grocery shopping in person. My heart broke when we cancelled our April trip to see our granddaughter. My grief also centered around what I could see coming with the pandemic: widespread job loss for people in service industries, huge economic disruption, and severe overload for health care workers. In April and May, my grief intensified when we learned that the virus disproportionately affects people of color. We learned about outbreaks in meat packing plants and in more nursing homes. Political divisions and mean words have flourished. Small businesses have closed, some of them forever. The mental health effects of loneliness are causing many people deep pain. My grief reached its nadir with the deaths of three precious people who should never have died: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.  

The lament psalms have seemed so real: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord” (Psalm 130:1). “The flood sweeps over me” (Psalm 69:2). “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1).

I’m still sad about all those things I listed, but this new state of acceptance has moved me beyond a painful paralysis coupled with exhaustion. You know about the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Some psychologists add shock/disbelief and guilt. I can’t identify any of the first four stages in my 85 days of grief, but I certainly have been incredulous quite often. And I have felt guilt that I would be grieving so hard when I have it so much better than those who have lost their jobs, their loved ones, or their homes. I keep going back to my post, “Easier does not mean easy.”

Over the past three months I have written blog posts about many lifelines, the actions and attitudes that have helped me cope in the midst of such pain, and I want you to know I’ve been writing those posts as much for myself as for my readers. For 85 days I was hanging on by a thread – emotionally, mentally, spiritually – and God has now given me the gift of five days without that sense of precarious agony. I wish I could create a list of magical ways to cope with grief, I wish I could reduce pain for my readers, but that old saying seems to be true: the only way out is through. I’m come through the grief to a place of blessed peace, I don’t know how long it will last, and I feel guilty that my acceptance of the impact of the virus has occurred right when the United States is exploding in anger. My challenge is to receive and accept these feelings of acceptance as a gift from the hand of God.

Some psychologists give the name hope to the acceptance stage of grief. Indeed the Holy Spirit has miraculously given me hope that God will pour new wine into new wineskins (Matthew 9: 16, 17). I believe – and feel deep in my heart – that God will enable us to sing a new song to the Lord (Psalm 96:1-4), even when singing anything except a dirge about riots, racial injustice, and the corona virus feels wildly inappropriate.

I’m joining with the writer of Psalm 77: “And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’ I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord: I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy” (Psalm 77:10-13).

Next week: the first post in a new series on creativity. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love new subscribers. Sign up below if you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog.

This is the 17th post in my spiritual diary of sheltering in place. At the beginning I called it a spiritual diary of self-isolation. After a few weeks I changed the name because I realized I didn’t feel socially isolated with so many opportunities to connect with people by phone, email, Skype, and zoom. I’m going to list all the posts here, with links, in case you missed any of them.

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