It seems like almost every blog or post I read is working hard to encourage me that we will all make it through 2020. That life will go on and that there are a ton of reasons to be optimistic. That the global pandemic has forced creativity and in many ways I will look back and be grateful. That I need to stay engaged and continue to embrace change and be willing to keep pivoting.
I agree with them most of the time. Besides, very few people want to read non-encouraging posts!
And yet I am realizing that in the midst of trying to stay positive, to adjust with whatever 2020 throws our way, and to keep encouraging those I lead, I have not really given myself permission to be sad or deal with the grief that this year has brought.
Maybe you can relate?
Since the shutdown began in early March there have been a series of small sadnesses in my life, punctuated by some very large sadnesses. I imagine that is true for you too.
Small sadnesses are things like missing hugs, travel plans being cancelled indefinitely, loss of connection to people, missing community worship on Sunday mornings. All survivable. Manageable.
Large sadnesses have been the loss of some very precious people in this season who have passed away, and the accompanying challenge of not having the closure that comes with funerals and celebrations of life. It’s like they have just disappeared from life but in a world where we aren’t seeing people, it doesn’t feel real somehow.
For some of my friends, those losses have been immediate family, or very close friends, so it feels real every single day. And in a season where being around friends and family is so critical, they are more isolated than they should be.
There is a lot of grief this year.
But here is where the challenge comes for me. Every time I try to touch that sadness and loss, I find myself feeling a bit guilty. I very quickly remind myself how good I have things. How all of my small sadnesses are “first world problems” at best. How I have a roof over my head. How my business is not going under when so many around me are faced with the uncertainty of their business surviving this season. How I have a husband who is alive and well, who is my best friend and partner in life and business so I am not alone in this. How my relationship with my daughter is solid and super enjoyable. How my close friends are amazing. How I haven’t lost everything in a fire or flood or wind storm. And on it goes.
No permission to be sad.
But I am sad. I think I’ve been sad quite a bit since March. I think many of us have. I had lots of adrenaline carrying me through the Spring, especially with the book launch in May and the joyous aftermath of it being received so well. Summer I buckled down with a ton of work with clients amidst being on lots of podcasts in a time we anticipated being face to face with people talking about the book.
Busy, yet isolated and in constant change along with everyone else in the world as we pivot and adjust and encourage each other to keep our chins up.
All while the sadnesses, small and large, continue to accumulate.
This past week I was having a rare hangout time with a friend. A deep conversation that is somehow much harder to come by when there is a computer screen involved. Actual face to face time. It was refreshing. I asked her how she is doing and smiled a bit as we did the “first world problems” dance. It isn’t just me as it turns out.
We can’t just say “I’m sad” or “I’m bored and lonely” or “I think these fires might push me over the edge” or “the divisiveness in our country is overwhelming.”
Instead we say “I’m sad, but I know that compared to lots of people, my life is amazing…” and we are probably right. But therein brews the challenge.
We automatically shortcut and disregard our pain because our pain doesn’t compare to the pain of others. I think this has been true long before the onslaught of 2020, but this season has highlighted it for me and helped me see it more clearly.
And I think that those of us who walk with Jesus sometimes have even more difficulty. We feel guilty for not “choosing joy” or “keeping our eyes on Jesus” so instead of allowing ourselves to grieve, we actually start striving to be better Christians somehow, so we bury the sadnesses instead of processing them with our Creator who knows us best and loves us in every season.
And why is that a problem? Well, because any good psychologist, Christian or secular, will tell you that if you don’t grieve loss, you don’t walk the pathway to emotional healing. And if you don’t walk that path, there are consequences.
- Irritability or anger
- Behavioral overreaction
- Apathy, numbness or low grade depression
- Lack of self-care
- Hyperalertness/increasing fear of loss
- Disconnection and loneliness
I don’t know about you, but I have experienced a few symptoms that fit the list above in these past few months. One of them has been the inability to write or contribute in any meaningful way in this space. A sense of apathy and numbness are all too common as we process a year where every loss compounds the one before it.
I want you to have permission to be sad. To own, acknowledge, and grieve the very real losses that 2020 has brought about. To allow yourself to feel the weight of the compounding sadnesses that you have experienced, even if they don’t seem to compare to the loss of others.
I want you to have permission to ugly cry. Trust me, you’ve earned it.
I also want you to know you aren’t alone. We will get through 2020, but it’s okay to be honest…. 2020 has been rough, and we aren’t through it yet.
Life is amazing. And life is full of sadnesses. Let’s commit to grieving the sadnesses well so that we can fully experience what is amazing.
Permssion to be sad? Granted.