Campus Minister with Cru at Stanford University, Associate Faculty in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary
“Stress from uncertainty simply wears people down. Individuals feel helpless, hopeless, and depressed. They become ambivalent and anxious. Family functioning suffers as decisions are put on hold, daily tasks are ignored, and fighting and rifts take place. Resiliency erodes as rituals and celebrations are cancelled. In such cases, individuals, couples, and families experience temporary shutdown. This is a crisis and, because it breaks down coping skills, it becomes traumatic as well.” (Pauline Boss, Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, 38)
There is a kind of loss that is uncertain because it gets absorbed into something greater. A missed “First Prom,” a cancelled season, a postponed graduation; the death of someone we love, the security of our health, a Zoom wedding, a lost job, etc.
With loss comes grief; with uncertainty comes doubt; and with crisis comes change. And it doesn’t seem much like a linear process: One day grief, one day hope, one day doubt. Every day hoping that tomorrow might bring some better news.
So we wanted to write about this kind of ambiguous loss—to “stumble through this together”—we are friends talking about the reality of how this global pandemic is impacting us and the people we love. We want to write and try to do art as a way to acknowledge the emotions that come with our uncertainty; a way to name the losses and stresses no matter how small or big they might feel; and to work at finding resiliency and hope. And we think others are going through similar things so we are “writing out loud” in case our conversation might be helpful.
We want to try to be artful and real; to not have to always know or say the right answer; to be able to hit or miss on some things. To try stuff even if it doesn’t always have meaning.
Day 1: Wrestling with Worry
I don’t really worry about catching Covid-19 myself…I don’t get sick very often and have been pretty careful and sometimes I think things like, “It won’t happen to me, or I’ll be ok if it does.” But I do worry about my family. I worry about my grandma—she’s 94–she had to “shelter in place” in December before it was a normal part of our vocabulary. A different virus, the Noro Virus, swept through her assisted care facility in Montana. She has some signs of dementia (she has good days and bad days) and after two weeks being all cooped up, she decided to get out. They found her wandering outside in 9 degree weather without a jacket. She had packed some clothes and some chocolate chips into the basket of her walker. I cry and laugh writing this and then I feel sorry, I cry because another “shelter in place” might push her further into dementia (it is as we speak) and the possibility of losing her. I laugh because of all the memories and who she was…and also, why chocolate chips? And that sums it up for me: I am trying to keep up with all the emotions that I’m feeling through Covid-19—Frustrated, Mad; Worried, Sad; Indifferent, Rebellious; Happy, Helpless, Privileged, Guilty…the list could go on—I am not always great at articulating how I am feeling.
There is a verse in the Scriptures that keeps running through my mind when these emotions sneak up on me.
I guess I take this to mean being present with whatever emotions I’m feeling; and be present with whatever emotions someone else is feeling (even if they are different than mine—that seems tricky). I also take it to mean that there aren’t really “wrong” emotions to be feeling. They just are. I don’t want to worry about worrying too much and I don’t want to feel guilty about feeling guilty. I just want to acknowledge the reality that some days are better than others. And that what I am feeling (whatever it might be for that day) says something about loss, or stress, or hope, or meaning, or something else I’m not quite aware of.
Here is one of my favorite articles on worry and anxiety that I’ve read recently. Laura is a friend, a great writer, and someone who actually recognizes what she is feeling and talks about it in a real way.
Photography by Bonnie Sanders