By MATT SEDDON
Well, everyone, we are now in uncharted waters, and it ain’t much fun. Covid-19 is spreading, and it already seems to be taking so much away from us.
At the church I serve, Christ Church, per Mexico City government order, we’ve had to suspend Sunday in-person services and go to online services. Many people are self-quarantining, some with wiggly kids. Our elderly are vulnerable and often a bit lonely and afraid. And all of us live with uncertainty. And we are used to feeling like we are in control and we don’t like uncertainty.
We also have many other feelings. I think two that make us most uncomfortable are fear and grief. We are afraid of the unknown. Every decision seems difficult, and few of our decisions have no potential bad consequences. Some people live with people with Covid-19, or symptoms like it. That is very scary for them and their loved ones and friends. We don’t know how to take action in the face of fear, and that intensifies the fear.
We have grief over what we have lost. We may not recognize the feeling of grief, but there it sits in our guts and souls. But grief follows loss, any kind of loss – loss of connections, loss of mobility, loss of work, loss of the things and activities that we used to take for granted. What do we do about that in these uncertain times?
As someone who feels like a pastor and shepherd to all, I wish I had a simple and easy answer. The truth is, if there was one, we’d know it by now thanks to social media and easy access to news. I confess this gives me fear and grief as well.
I have learned that a first good step is to admit your feelings and accept them. Talking about them with others – safely, over the phone, over the internet, at a safe distance – certainly helps keep them from stagnating in you and beginning to rule you. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to admit that. And when you do, the fear has less power over you.
Grief is harder to accept. We want it to just go away but, and I hate to be the bearer of hard news, but it will not just go away. But the power of grief over us is lessened when we admit it, allow ourselves to feel it – to sit with it, to cry, to wonder aloud why this has happened. And, again, to talk about it with others. It is okay to grieve. It is okay, even good, to cry. It is okay to share this grief with others. And the best thing is to not try to “fix” other people who are grieving. Just be with them and share their grief. There is no “fixing” grief. We can only let it run its course.
And we have to find hope. I continue to have hope. Some days it’s hard, but I do. I used to be an archaeologist, and I can assure you this is not the end of the human race. We’ve experienced plagues before and will see them again. And we do have information that can help us track, avoid, and heal this plague. We can and should follow the recommendations of credentialed scientists, they are working hard and well to provide guidance. The disease is new, but we also have new tools as humans and that gives me hope.
I also have hope because I’ve already seen people at their best. People calling their homebound friends. People using technology to find new ways to connect as family, friends and community. Restaurants feeding the hungry. There are people doing creative and wonderful things already, and that gives me hope that we will weather these difficult waters. Hope is the antidote to fear, and hope sustains us when we are grieving.
Sometimes you have to be hope to have hope. Be hope. Call the homebound and check on them. Keep yourself safe. Stay home if you can. Wash your hands! Think of creative ways to care for the poor, the sick and the marginalized. Be hope, and we will all have hope.
MATT SEDDON is the rector of Christ Church, an Anglican church in Mexico City. You can connect with Christ Church online at http://www.christchurch.mx/