The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life in more ways than we can count. While some are facing grief over the loss of a loved one, others are dealing with more deceptive grief caused by the loss of a job, school, friends, and social life, just to name a few. The grief we don’t recognize can be devastating. What does Jesus have to say?
Recognizing Hidden Grief
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.
Don’t underestimate the grief caused by the loss of your normal routine.
Stay-at-home restrictions have impacted jobs, the way kids go to school and play, and the ability to gather in person with family and friends. These measures have also changed how people shop, worship, exercise, eat, and seek entertainment. As a result, the pandemic has had a major psychological impact, causing people to lose a sense of safety, predictability, control, freedom, and security.
Not surprisingly, people are acting out on these feelings. Why is the loss of your routine so upsetting?
While it’s obvious that we form attachments to the people we love, our attachments to work, places, and things tend to elude us. The strong emotions that come with losing those attachments can baffle us and make it difficult to move forward.
Signs and Symptoms of Grief
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
How can you become aware of the grief you are experiencing? Your body is a good, first barometer.
Grief might cause you to feel numb or empty. You might have trouble sleeping, or eating, experience excess fatigue, muscle weakness, or shakiness. You might have nightmares or find yourself increasingly socially withdrawn.
Grief can also have some positive effects. You might feel grateful for brave and caring people in your community. You might have an increased appreciation for your relationships and have a desire to help others who are experiencing similar losses.
Biblical Coping Mechanisms for Grief
As awful as it might feel, grief serves an important purpose. Grief helps you recognize that you’ve experienced a loss and that you’re going to need to adapt.
Here are some biblical suggestions from the life of Jesus to help you on your journey through grief.
1. Pay attention to your feelings.
Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me'” (Matt. 26:38).
Jesus knew what he was about to lose and how it made him feel. He identified the feeling, named it, and then confessed it to his closest friends.
Name what you’ve lost due to the pandemic. It might help to write this down in a journal. Allow yourself to feel sad. Have a good cry. It’s good for you. Jesus wept.
See the tears as nature’s coping tools. Think about the strength you find after a good cry. How can they help you move forward?
2. Stay connected.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you'” (Mark 16:7).
The first thing the angel wanted the disciples to know was that Jesus is alive. The second was, he can’t wait to see you again … especially Peter.
Don’t let social distancing prevent you from getting the support you need. Get creative. Use any safe method at your disposal. Phone calls, text messages, video chats and social media can help you stay in touch with family and friends who are positive and supportive.
Reach out to those in similar situations. Pets also can provide emotional support. Do whatever it takes to stay connected.
3. Create a new routine.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).
Jesus had a routine that included early morning quiet time with God and weekly attendance at synagogue. His routine propelled him toward his ultimate purpose in life. That’s what routine does — it is the track that carries you to your destination.
This has been difficult for me. Before Covid-19, I lived by my calendar, every hour of every day scheduled. Once the shelter-in-place order hit and Sunday services were canceled, my schedule took a sharp turn. I spent a few weeks trying to remember what day it was.
Solution: I had to fill my calendar with a new set of action items. I changed my office from a counseling center to a recording studio. I established new goals with new routines.
When grief sets in, a routine can be your best friend. It helps preserve a sense of order and purpose, despite how much things may have changed.
4. Limit your news and social media diet.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
Jesus taught and healed and cleansed people. He loved to spend time with all kinds of people, but it cost him something. He had to balance his village life with his wilderness time.
Staying up on the latest news is important, but it can come with a cost. All news agencies are businesses and controversy, fear-mongering, and fighting sells tickets to the show.
Spending too much time reading or listening to news about the pandemic can warp your reality and keep you in an unnecessary state of fear or despair. You need to follow the lead of Jesus and get away regularly. Unplug. Detox. Find your happy place.
5. Remember the journey.
“You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:4).
In their darkest moment, Jesus had to remind his disciples that they were on a journey. He would show them the way.
Whatever you are going through, keep in mind that it is only one leg of the journey. It doesn’t have to define you.
For instance, if you’ve lost your job, you don’t have to let the way it ended define the whole experience. Consider some of your good memories and the big picture. Focus on the parts of the journey you can control.
A Final Note
I hope these biblical suggestions from the life of Jesus have been helpful. If you’re having trouble coping with your grief over changes caused by the pandemic, consider seeking help from a mental health provider. It will be a worthy investment of time and resources.
God bless you on your journey!