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I snapped at a dear friend last week. I blame COVID.
Well, I blame myself actually, but COVID goaded me into it. I’ve been in knots about the pandemic again, after my kids’ school district announced last week that they would not be requiring masks for students (a decision they reversed a week later, thanks be to God). As a parent of two kids who aren’t yet old enough to get vaccinated, the idea of sending them into a petri dish when pediatric ICUs in Dallas were totally full? It threw me for a loop. I shot off a panicked text to a group of friends, and one of them rightly and innocently suggested a slightly different perspective than mine. I bit her head off.
The requisite soul-searching afterwards made me realize that I’m not just angry about masks. I’m grieving.
School board meetings in my county have gotten very ugly in the last week. Parents are flocking to the microphones to offload their fears onto the leaders who hold the reins on kids’ safety / freedom (depending on which side you’re on). I’m in a Facebook group for local pro-masking parents, and one of them went to a particularly vitriolic board meeting this week. She tried to make sense of the huge gulf that separated “us” from “them,” and what she said was so helpful to the part of me that has felt so betrayed by all those “thems.” She said, “These parents are victimized by COVID, having been abandoned by a life they loved, revered, and trusted. They have been presented with another life — one that is restricting, demoralizing, and arduous. One which they do not want, which they can’t get rid of, and which has made them deeply resentful and bitter. . . As one parent shouted to the superintendent and the Board Of Education, “It’s YOUR job to make this normal again!’”
Oh, God. I feel this so deeply. That’s me. Every time I feel a twinge of panic over the thing my kids aren’t getting but they so desperately need (hugs, friends, basketball practice, summer camp), the resentful and bitter me is so close to the surface. I want someone to fix. this. mess. now.
The Delta Variant is taking away the gauzy dream we spent the summer in, the one that told us we’d made it to a post-pandemic life. We’re waking up to another life, and we miss the one we loved. Brené Brown on her podcast Unlocking Us interviewed a “grief expert” named David Kessler. He said this, “Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.”
I just wonder how much of my text melt-down, how much of these insane school board microphone meltdowns, are exactly this. We need someone to be present to the magnitude of our loss. And everyone needs us to be present to theirs.
We are each grieving the end of a life that we once knew. We’ve lost hopes, loved ones, opportunities, normalcy, trust, community, faith, health, family. It’s not small; it’s the stuff we thought we were building a life on. Before we can build something new, we have to go through the excruciating work of grief.
So I wish you peace in your grief, dear friend. No matter whether you’re grieving wearing a mask or grieving a community that refuses to do so.
I wish you a community that can stand alongside you as you have the courage to face, to name, what you’ll miss.
I wish you space from any mention of a silver lining.
I wish you courage to do the hard, necessary work of grief.
I’m right there with you.