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Gratitude for Grief, Solitude and Connection

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

By Nancy Bragg

My efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had a huge impact on my life. My disease prevention measures continue to change how I eat, exercise, worship, shop, seek entertainment, and interact with family and friends. From the beginning, I wore a mask, washed my hands, and pushed people away not wanting to come within six feet of them. Although I knew I could always connect with my Divine through prayer and my angels were watching over me, I experienced a sense of loss in my need for human connection.

As a “live with” person, I am fortunate to “live with” my husband. And yet, my husband is a “live alone” person, who prefers not to have anyone in his personal space. As a result, he holes up in his den, so I hole up in our bedroom. We eat and sleep together, watch the Today Show and PBS News hour together, and walk outside and practice yoga together – which is all lovely. It’s enough for him. It’s not enough for me. I knew I was I missing something important for me. Yet I needed clarity and specifics about what was missing.

I came to realize that I was conflating going places and interacting with people. I routinely went many places and interacted with people in growth groups, worship services, classes, and gatherings of friends. I was powerfully attached to being in places where I could interact with people. I missed the energy, stimulation, and connection. Losing those opportunities was challenging. I felt numb staying home. Then I felt a sense of despair. It was as if many people in my life had died. No wonder it felt like grief, it was grief. Recognizing it as grief was good for me. I am grateful that my grief made me aware of my loss, my sadness, and my need for energy, stimulation, and connection.

So, I adapted. Going places was not as important as connecting with people. I encouraged former meaningful groups to transfer to Zoom. In April, I found this Morning Meditation group. Rather than relying on the convenience of people showing up at activities we have in common, I began intentionally reaching out to people I love and want to be with. I have devoted time to deepening my connection with those beloveds. I used to make elaborate plans to get together with two dear faraway friends. It only happened every year or so, we now Zoom every other week! Instead of being with our 3 sons twice a year, my husband and I now interact with them in a Family Zoom every other week. Instead of being with my sibs every year or so, we now plan to Zoom every other month. I don’t have to go anywhere to spend more time in solitude and stillness strengthening my relationships with my essence and my Divine. I can stay home.

From my dark place of feeling sad and alone in April, I emerged feeling the light and joy of connections and a deep sense of belonging. My grief led to gratitude. Thanks to COVID, I am not going places to be with people and my relationships are deeper and more meaningful.

- written in April 2020 during the COVID pandemic

I thought I’d awaken to a world in mourning.

Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming.

But there’s something different on this golden morning.

Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.

I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.

Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.

A grandma on a porch fingers her rosaries.

She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,

Our people have never been more closely tethered.

The question isn’t if we can weather this unknown,

But how we will weather this unknown together.

So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.

Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.

As one, we will defeat both despair and disease.

We stand with healthcare heroes and all employees;

With families, libraries, waiters, schools, artists;

Businesses, restaurants, and hospitals hit hardest.

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,

For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.

In this chaos, we will discover clarity.

In suffering, we must find solidarity.

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:

Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

Read children’s books, dance alone to DJ music.

Know that this distance will make our hearts grow fonder.

From these waves of woes our world will emerge stronger.

We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind

Are also the moments that make us humans kind;

Let each morning find us courageous, brought closer;

Heeding the light before the fight is over.

When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing

In testing times, we became the best of beings.

Participants’ Reflections

  • Thank you. That really spoke to me. When I did corporate crisis management, my clients were unhappy to see me because it meant, when they saw me, they had done something horrible. I gave them a card with the ideogram for crisis which combines the radical for danger with the one for opportunity. You spoke of all the incredible ways we use Zoom. The poet Amanda Gorman is one of them. I am now paying attention to many things I wasn’t paying attention to before. And I am connecting with people I knew so many years ago, through zoom and through email threads. It wouldn’t have happened before the pandemic. Thank you. Gorman’s play on the word morning got me thinking.

  • Your phrase of grief leading to gratitude is really wonderful. I think grief is a prism that helps us see more clearly what or who we are missing. I think that vision, that understanding, comes in a moment of grace.

  • My deepest sadness in the pandemic is missing my grandchildren. One was born during the pandemic. The gift is her parents have asked me to do baby care while they work, but I have to wear a mask the whole time. She doesn’t see my whole face except during lunch. I loved it when she pulled my mask off. My other grandchildren are older and I’ve made a point, before Covid, to spend one night a week with each of them. In the last few weeks, I started speaking to each of them intentionally on the phone. And they are choosing to speak to me, which wouldn’t have happened before the pandemic. I am grateful for that. We’re going to do a scavenger hunt.

  • It’s amazing how creative we can be when we want to connect with people. Last week, I sat in my car talking to my friend six feet apart in her car. We are creative.

  • Thank you. I loved this reading and the poem. For me, at first, the isolation of the pandemic was so disruptive. But I find I can connect with more people, interact with them more. Then, sometimes I think, if the electricity goes out, everyone would be gone. It freaks me out a bit. When the meeting ends, I think of that. But I get pleasure from seeing and talking to people even if I am not physically with them. I have gratitude, but there is this fear underlying everything. So thank you.

  • I hope I live to see Amanda Gorman become president. I hope you become, in your next life, a spiritual librarian. I remember when my mother could no longer read, I got children’s books about biographies. She could take it all in. I read her The Biography of Grandma Moses. She absolutely loved it. We do have to be creative. I love the joy when we have been through grief and yet we really know within there is more than grief.

  • Traditionally, we have Easter at my mother’s house. We have family across the country. Last Easter was the first real US holiday where we were stuck at home. I set up the Zoom and was able to include cousins from all over the country. Looking back now, even though we are in this pandemic, I got to spend more time with all my cousins which is great. And this morning, if this was an in-person group, I wouldn’t be at the meeting because I woke up late. I wouldn’t show up at the meeting in my pajamas. But I come here in the morning dressed or in my pajamas. It doesn’t matter. I get insight into my work colleagues, a hobby or something special to them. I get a view into what is important to my colleagues. There’s a lot to be said for it being more personalized. You have to see the good, and there is a lot of good.

  • This is reminding me of the power of breaking open in a crisis (see blog). When a catastrophe happens in people’s lives, all of a sudden they start talking to strangers and working together. It breaks us open. To me, the gem of the process is retaining what we have broken open as we move forward.

  • There was a shift within me at some point. A voice spoke within me to embrace the situation. From enduring it to embracing it, hoping the embracing parts get bigger and bigger.

  • I remember that Japanese artform Kintsugi where broken pots are put back together as an art form. I’m kicking myself that, during the pandemic, I tried to repair things by minimizing the damage when in fact, I should have exalted it.

  • Thank you. That was wonderful. It was wonderful to be able to reflect on how to break open and find the gems inside and harvest them and keep going as we gather them within ourselves. The prism gives me the chills. I hope you all have a gentle day, keeping in mind the facets of the prism and all the light that comes from it. Sometimes the light may be dimmer colors than others but they are all part of the same gem. I hope you all have a gentle day.

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