A few weeks ago, I was staying in a tiny, tiny town with the sweetest little Main Street.
I was picking up some books in their local bookstore, chatting with the women behind the counter, when someone came into the small shop and coughed as they crossed the threshold.
Everyone looked up, startled and I could feel a slight “high alert” in the space. I took a breath behind my mask and mentioned how crazy it is that we’ve learned to be afraid of other people, of coughs and sneezes.
A woman behind the counter relaxed and shared with me how she felt she had to take her child out of a store for sneezing too much and not wanting to scare people.
Another woman started crying.
We ended up having a little sharing circle about all these little responses we’ve found ourselves managing that no one talks about and it really helped each of us to know we aren’t alone.
We aren’t. We may have not all been on the same boat for the last while, but we’ve been riding the same waves.
These kinds of responses are both trauma and grief reactions—mostly unconscious ones since so little has been acknowledged or said about the mental health impact the last 15 months of quarantine, pandemic, and lurking death has been on all of us.
We’ve each been holding a lot, personally, collectively, and culturally, and it’s been exhausting. We have been navigating and negotiating our way through many complex emotional experiences in the inner planes, some of it being gaslit by society at large or being taken advantage of for financial gain or even the politics of belonging.
Much of what we are seeing on a collective level is a reaction to the emotional trauma we’ve all endured but haven’t been allowed to name. Our cultural parents don’t want us to either.
There’s a lot of legacy that’s been built on denial.
It’s been a long, long 15 months where many of us experienced an existential crisis that likely also triggered a lot of old pain and unmet grief, longing, and desire for something “more” we might not quite be able to name.
Not for more things.
For more love.
None of us are who we were last March.
Our view on life has been forever changed.
Our lives are not the same.
The world is not the same.
It’s not serving us to pretend anything can go back to the way it was.
Where we stand in the rubble of what was considered “normal,” who we thought we were, what we thought made us happy, the status of our relationships, purpose, or where we call home has been called into serious question.
If we turn our backs on all of it, we risk abandoning ourselves and creating further disconnection from the love that is trying to break through and get a hold of us to steer us in the right direction.
We risk not making it through the underworld and finding the gold that’s there.
There’s been the death of loved ones; the fear of people close to us dying without being able to be there; the loss of friendships; the betrayals of trust; the isolation; the death of lives we lived, of relationships and homes and jobs—not to mention financial losses, instability discovered beneath foundations built, questions upon questions about what to trust about the reality of the life we’ve been living.
Nothing about the last year has been normal, nor is what we have been through.
Returning to business as usual in order to rebuild is the exact cultural mythology we’ve been conditioned to believe about grief and loss. We don’t acknowledge it happens much—give it a short grace period, and then we are supposed to move ahead with building a new structure on top of a dying one.
It’s another way our cultural parents blind us into focusing on how things look rather than how they feel.
We need to get to the soul, the Eros—the loving truth at the root of all the things.
Even the impulse we may feel to go back out to a “normal” way of being in the world—frequenting the establishments, all of it—can be an activation of a flight response to get away from the deep discomfort we’ve experienced this last year. Especially the discomfort of the crunchiness of our lives that’s been revealed to us, asking us to change.
The grief, the not knowing, the life we’ve been living inside of is dismantling. We are seeing that most of the structures that hold our lives lack holding for this kind of pain.
It’s heartbreaking to see what it’s causing.
If you’re feeling weird about emergence, it’s okay. It’s normal. So is the anxiousness or depression; the ambivalence speaks to the complexity of emotions, to the aliveness to the parts of you that are paying attention and need more time. More time to process, to get clear, to ground in to new roots.
It’s okay to take your time.
Grief can feel like anxiety or rage, fear and stuckiness, dullness, fatigue, or even depression. It can also include binge eating, drinking more than usual, and sleeping more than usual.
Grief needs our care so we can honor what we’ve survived before we move on.
Grief can bring up all the old griefs—the other times our grief has gone unacknowledged and we’ve wondered if there is something wrong with us.
Only this time, it’s a whole paradigm, a whole culture that is not ackowledging our grief because we want to go back to at least making things “look” like they did before.
Do we want that?
I don’t know.
My own life has undergone such a massive reconstruction, I don’t even live in the same state anymore. There’s much I’ve needed to feel through from the life I’ve left behind and the more I do, the more I feel more like myself than I ever have in my life. And, it’s taken time.
Part of grieving, and recovering from trauma, is cultivating the resilience to stand in the rubble and feel what’s there to feel. To listen to the dreams and prayers in the rubble. To go through all things and clear the ground, make it level again. To find new building materials, create a new floor plan, assemble a new construction team.
All, hopefully, rooted back in the connectedness of the intimacy of life we are truly craving.
Rebuilding things to look the same isn’t rebuilding—it’s denial.
To build again from a new consciousness means acknowledging the one we are in that’s asking for our presence so she can die and leave the offerings of life-affirming prayers as seeds for a more flourishing future.
It’s okay to make space to process all the feels before you return to whatever life is awaiting you.
Make an altar to your past self, to pre-pandemic life. Honor all the things that were good. Honor all that you were in those days.
See what needs to be let go of and honor that mourning.
Lean into what wants to come with you, what strengths, gifts, creativity, or renewed sense of purpose want to come with you into the new life.
What new vision for a flourishing future wants to be resurrected out of the remains?
Make space for all of it, and it’s okay to follow your own timeline.
Let’s slow down in order to go faster, in a more life-affirming direction.