Like many of you – I’m wrestling with a host of unanswerable questions: When will this virus end? Will we ever go back to the “normal” we had about a year ago? Will me or a loved one catch the virus? What is going to happen to the economy and our personal finances? Am I the only one struggling with these things right now?
In one of my newsletters at work, I stumbled upon a great article by an educator named Daniel Patterson. Here is a portion of his insight:
Grief. It’s a polarizing word. Grief is messy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpredictable. And it beckons conflict and chaos when not adequately acknowledged and proactively addressed. Grief in its most familiar context is deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death. But grief sneaks into the corners of everyday life disguised as sorrow, anguish, sadness, misery, pain, agony and distress. If we were playing emotional bingo, it’s safe to say everyone would be a winner.
Our education system is in a grief cycle, but most aren’t calling it by its name. Instead, many prefer to throw around terms like “new normal” to express the disconnect between the routine and familiar tenents of education, and the tangled web of uncertainty tossing educators and students around in a sea of variables. “New normal” is not even close to a dignified term for what teachers and students are experiencing: substantial direct and indirect trauma stemming from a pandemic, remote learning, isolation, economic uncertainty, elevated poverty, death of loved ones, a civil rights movement, and political polarization.
Grief, as you might recall, has stages. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And, acceptance. These stages, of course, are not concrete. They ebb and flow. As we head into the new school year, it’s critical to acknowledge that your entire school ecosystem is in some stage of grief.
Wow, grief – I haven’t looked at it from that perspective. I am guilty of throwing around the term “new normal”, or proclaiming to others, “Just give it some time, things will go back to “normal.” A wise woman once said, “Normal is a setting on your washing machine.”
However, it seems that everywhere I look – families, businesses, schools, places of worship, entertainment, sports – there is some type of a layer of sadness that we just can’t get past.
Whether it was a social media post, advice, a podcast, quote, or article – here are some words of encouragement out there that have helped me:
- Don’t compare or minimize your pain with someone else. It is yours and it is real. We have to have a trusted friends we can vent to and be a listener for them also.
- Fight to keep moving forward, even tiny steps. It can be a fight to cook, do homework, laundry, pay bills, socialize, go to the store. An enticing temptation for all of us is to stay in bed or spend hours on the couch.
- If it is a struggle to show up for yourself -show up for others that are depending on you – children, spouse, the elderly, friends, co-workers, customers, the lonely, the poor. Someone needs YOU right now.
- Cling to your faith for hope, even though the circumstances are difficult, we keep asking “Why?”, and it feels like God is silent. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
- Don’t expect to just be able to “snap out of it.” Watch that negative self talk like, “I should be able to move past this – what is wrong with me?” A trusted friend once told me, “You don’t get over grief. You move through it.” Give yourself time.
- Exercise of any type. It helps you get your mind off what is going on, and you feel better afterwards.
This was a tough one to write. It helps to get it out of my system and “name” some of the things going on internally that I’ve experiened or have watched others go through. We’re in this together – and we are going to make it! 🙂