This isn’t entirely pandemic focused, but do we not need truth, beauty, & humour more than ever in these strange days?
I know that grief has unexpectedly come up for many people recently, and I have opinions about that. One of them is that there are a lot of really bad ideas floating around our culture that have to do with grieving. We don’t have a good road map for how to do the work of grief well. So when we are faced with our own grief, we are vulnerable, exposed, faced with a really difficult work, AND we have no idea how to do it. Something that helped me navigate better was that I had recently walked part of that road with a good friend, and so had thought carefully about how to do grief well, and had observed her live through it with courage and wisdom.
Both of these books put beautiful words to some of the thoughts I had, as well as sparked some new thoughts. I won’t say that I wholeheartedly endorse everything that is said, but these 2 books are some of the best and most helpful I’ve encountered. (And the way Prechtel talks about grief, praise, & love is beautiful.)
I’m going to highlight a few ideas that struck me – but seriously, go sift through these books yourself. It will be good for your soul.
One concept that both these books engage is ritual. A typical western funeral is a poor excuse for a grief ritual. Have you ever been to a graveside service where everyone walked away, and the casket was just hanging there, unlowered? It has left me feeling somewhat unsettled. As I’ve contemplated it, I think its because it is indicative of our denial; our inability to face the reality of death. (Know that I’m not pointing fingers at anyone specific, just observing a general phenomenon.)
Another concept was having a companion to witness & support you in your grief. It is difficult to be that vulnerable when other people are there. It is also difficult to just witness someone’s grief and not try to say anything, or do anything to fix it. However, simply offering our presence to one another, especially at these times, can be so healing. (I know many of us are probably recognizing the value of presence in a whole new way at the moment.) We had the incredible gift of people who were able to just sit with us in our grief, and somehow ease our pain. Sometimes it was actual presence, and sometimes it was an email or a gift that came with no expectations. I’m so grateful, and I want to keep learning how to be present to others in their griefs.
The last idea I’m going to draw out today is that we can have grief for larger issues: grief over climate change, political situations,… pandemics. This is something I have known, have felt, for a long time. Being in a deep season of grief for Beatrix gave me the space to grieve some of the larger issues that have weighed on my soul for years. (Seriously, I wept all the way through a book about politics, indigenous issues, climate change, & hope… It’s not the kind of book that the average person would weep while reading.) I’m still working on how to talk about some of this – but having someone else put it into words helped me see the importance of it in a new way.
I also want to talk about Michael Pollan. Given how much I love food, I am a little confused as to how it has taken me so long to read anything by him. I picked up Cooked last fall because it was on display at the library. I love the way he thinks about food – and given that so many of us are doing more of our own cooking these days, his thoughts seem even more relevant.
Have you watched Brené Brown’s Netflix special?! I’ve talked about her work before, and if you haven’t already encountered her work, this might be a good introduction. Here’s the trailer:
If you have somehow missed John Krasinski’s Some Good News, there are 3 episodes now, and they have brought me a lot of joy.
And just because we desperately need humour to help us interpret what is happening. I’m sure we all have our favourite memes, depending on what situation we are in. Here are a few I like:
Something that has grieved me deeply over the last few years is how deeply polarized we are. But I’ve seen something beautiful happening over the last few weeks: this has shifted, at least a little. We are recognizing in a new way that we need each other; that our actions affect each other. One person is struggling because their work is suddenly way more crucial, and they are working more hours (and with more danger & protocols) than ever. Another is struggling because all they have to do is stay home… But I see these groups supporting each other, and not minimizing the value and difficulty of someone in a different situation. That brings me hope.