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Grieving Well During a Pandemic

Grieving Well During a Pandemic

by Steven Eng on April 30, 2020

While we continue this long journey through unusual times, it’s good to give ourselves permission to acknowledge and to grieve that losses we’re experiencing.  For many of us, that includes the loss of income or meaningful work, being unable to gather with family and friends or for worship or Christian fellowship.  For others, it’s having classes and gatherings cancelled, or having to postpone vacations and travel plans. 

Several weeks ago, Josh shared with our staff an article from the Harvard Business Review that acknowledged this grief so many of us feel.  We know the world is changed; and though much change will be temporary, we may not return to “normal” for a long time—if ever.  So there’s this kind of “anticipatory grief”—when we grieve an uncertain future, such as the death of a loved one or even our own death, or the loss of safety, as we battle an enemy we can’t even see or understand (Scott Berinato, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief)

So we need to give ourselves permission to feel sad for just a while and grieve these losses. 

Dr. Linda Solie, a psychologist in private practice in the Twin Cities, and guest lecturer on cognitive therapy to doctoral students in Counseling Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and a member of our Northwest Conference (of Covenant Churches) executive board and Bethlehem Covenant Church in Minneapolis, shared recently of an experiment where researchers collected tears of those crying in test tube and discovered that these tears release stress hormones in our bodies.  So heartfelt grieving can be heathy and beneficial. 

At the same time, she says, we don’t want to allow our grief or anxiety to go unchecked.   Instead, it helps to compartmentalize grief—to allow ourselves a certain amount of time to name our losses and have unrestricted grief—but then to purge our grief.  She encourages people not to be passive, but to identify what we can control, act on that, then train ourselves to bounce back quickly. 

For instance, it might help to use this time of isolation to learn and grow.  We can read, take an online course, spend time with family (if we’re under the same roof), phone loved ones, or write notes and letters.  Our family, for example, has been on the receiving end of some dear people who’ve been mailing notes or leaving a treat on our doorstep.  And we’re looking for ways to bless others too. 

So we feel our grief, then keep going.  Because all this is still temporary.  And Christ is our rock and strong tower, who we can always run to for safety and certainty.  And because, in Christ, even though we’re dying, “our spirits are being renewed day by day.”  Why?  Because “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.”   Somehow, in the mystery of God, as Paul says, these troubles will “produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.”  So let’s continue to “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen” that will last forever (2 Corinthians 5:16-18). 

--Steve Eng, pastor

Rochester Covenant Church

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