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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.

Photo by Kyle Austin on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Nate Johnson says:

    thank you for naming our need to grieve so clearly, Kate.

  • DVL says:

    Add to this the grief that many of us in education can’t even breathe the words “diversity,” “equity” or “inclusion” without encountering fear, vitriol, and threats about the “dangers of CRT.” Thank you for this.

  • Marla says:

    Thanks, Kate. This is so true. It helps tons to hear you name it.

  • Cory Van Sloten says:

    Thanks Kate, shalom.

  • Diane Maodush-Pitzer says:

    Thanks, Kate.

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    Across June and much of July I allowed myself to get giddy. Going into stores without a mask, taking a group of people out to a restaurant and grabbing a drink at the bar first and feeling safe in doing so . . . well, the thought kept bubbling up in my head, “We are finally coming out of this thing. I doubted once we ever would but . . .” Ah, foolish thoughts. I am grieving and when I have flashes of anger about it all, that’s grief too. Thanks for naming this so well, Kate.

  • Jim Payton says:

    Thank you for assessing this so insightfully. It has given me an unexpected window into the grief of the “other” side and allowed me to appreciate anew their woundedness in these awful, utterly unexpected times. That is a gift of grace you’ve administered to me, so thank you. I still want them to get vaccinated and wear masks, but your article reminds me again that we are all struggling with the mess we’re all in.

  • Grace says:

    Well said, Kate. I thought of you when GRPS changed their stance on masks. A great relief I’m sure. Thanks. I hope your boys have a great school year.

  • Hilda says:

    I feel this. The grief, the anger, the sadness. Knowing that the simple act of wearing a mask will make a difference when it comes to how normal my kids school year will be but people won’t wear a mask unless they are mandated. Grieving because I can’t worship in my own church because there are no restrictions, no masks and highly doubtful that everyone is vaccinated. I went there with a mask and was publicly mocked for wearing one, everyone laughed but myself. This isn’t over and I am tired of the selfishness and the all about me attitude around me.

  • Henny Flinterman Vroege says:

    Thank you. Sitting here grieving – your post came at just the right time.

  • Emily Jane VandenBos Style says:

    Thank you for this insightful truth-telling. Registering on the grief of leaving the war in Afghanistan to arrive at the School Board Wars in our own land and needing now to do the hard work of Democracy 101 with our own hands & hearts & minds. Great grief, indeed. To witness.

  • Rowland Van Es Jr. says:

    I agree with the quote, “The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.” In the Bible, that is the lament tradition, what Peterson calls the pastoral work of pain-sharing. We need to list our losses from A-Z until we’ve said all we have to say. Thanks.

  • Karen Wynbeek says:

    Thank you Kate for your well-written words. Also, thanks to those of you who responded.
    I am concerned about 2 young grandchildren in Western Colorado who will be attending their local school which is very casual about precautions. This article with the responses makes me feel like I am part of a caring community of fellow Christians who are trying to make God-honoring responses to a complicated world situation.

  • Barbara Egeler-Bailey says:

    Christians will want do everything they can to love everyone more than themselves according to Scripture’s command. including wearing masks and getting vaccines. Why would Christians or others put their “rights” before others’ Jesus would ask.

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