Losing a loved one is its own form of social distancing.
When you long to hug your friend or your family member and the tears come because you know you can’t… that’s a taste of it. It’s that horrible ache because I know you aren’t far from me and yet I can’t touch you and I can’t come close. Those we have loved and lost… their memory feels that close sometimes. And yet, there’s absolutely no way to touch them or hold them, when you need comforted the very most. Six feet apart.
Six months ago, we didn’t have this vocabulary. We didn’t even have it six weeks ago! But the phrase “social distancing” has given me the language I’ve needed to explain how it feels to lose a spouse.
Did you know that widows lose 75% of their support system after the first three months? (And that’s if they had a support system in place to begin with!)
I wish I could tell you that this is just some made up statistic. But I’ve met with dozens of widows recently and they all confirm it’s true. Losing a spouse completely uproots and changes your support system. A close friend and widow told me, “Those who should have been there for me weren’t. And those who came through, totally surprised me. All of my friends and community changed.”
Most people don’t know how to enter into grief with someone, so they just don’t. They quietly, slowly back away … and they’re gone.
How is Grief like Social Distancing? When you lose a spouse…
People stay 6 feet away. I wish I were kidding. But sometimes your loss can trigger everyone else’s worst fears. People think stupid things as if grief is contagious, as if they’ll lose their spouse if they become friends with you. Or they get afraid that they’ll say the wrong thing… so they say nothing and they steer clear.
You’ll only eat if people show up with food.
You’ll desperately need hugs, physical touch, connection, but… six feet. You’ll feel the weight of it. You’ll cry out for a hug. You never realized how much touch actually mattered.
Your whole world just got knocked upside down. And nobody warned you it was gonna happen. No wonder you are so tired. No wonder your body aches. No wonder sleep is illusive. It won’t be forever. But it is for now.
You can’t go to the doctor or hair dresser or even the grocery store. The difference is the reasoning. Because you just can’t. Not because somebody told you can’t. Because your body told you that you can’t. You can’t handle sitting in the chiropractor’s waiting room bawling again so you just won’t go. And that’s ok.
You can’t go to parties or social events. Why? Mostly because …six feet. People will tell you (after they hosted a gathering) that they thought about inviting you, but didn’t know if you’d really want to be there and they figured that the conversations would probably be lame to you so they decided not to invite you… Your head may spin trying to figure this all out. And when you are invited, it’s painful to go. Sometimes you’ll be brave, and sometimes, you’ll self-isolate. You’ll have to surrender to the Lord all your friendships and community and need for belonging with everything in you. He will send you everyone you need.
Your finances just got sucker punched. You’ll have no idea how you’re going to make it. You’ll have to trust God with all that’s in you. And somehow, you won’t be afraid. You’ll trust God will provide.
You never know when this will actually end. There’s no time stamp on grief and loss. There’s no end in sight. And even though there may be healing, you will always be missing your other half. And yet, there’s still a part of you that is hopeful about what the future holds.
You’ll never be the same as you were. Part of you knows you’ll get better. The other part of you knows that half of you died the day your spouse died. And the person that is left is actually a totally different person than you were before. You’ve been just as changed by becoming one with your spouse as you are changed by losing your spouse. And somehow, you’ll just keep loving him even deeper and even more. You’ll be refined in this fire.
Overnight, all your routines have to change. Because your other half isn’t there. Just gone. Just missing. You’ll have to learn how to do everything he did for your family and raise kids suddenly solo. No more tag-teaming. No one to consult. So you’ll ask God to give you new spiritual gifts and wisdom to make up the lack. And He will.
You’ll realize just how much you took for granted. You’ll be sad about this. Because this loss did change you. In many ways, it changed you for the better. And you’ll wish with everything in you that this better version of you could love your spouse as deeply, reverently and respectfully as you love him now. And you’ll become more grateful.
You’ll learn that every good gift is from God. If you knew this previously, you’ll know it even deeper now. Sunshine on your shoulders. Fresh water. The actual ability to breathe. Every bit of manna.
The actual ability to breathe.
When you bury your best friend and lover six feet under….
and then those who should be there for you slowly start staying six feet away from you…
you need this more than ever: the actual ability to breathe.
Life is but a breath.
And the God who put breath in you? That’s one of His names… He’s Yahweh. He’s the very air we breathe.
If we learn anything in grief, it’s that when no one else can come through for us, He somehow finds a way and actually does.
Join me in this practice?
Deep breath in.
Yahweh, Breath of Life, I need you.
Fill my lungs.
Heal my heart.
Be near, O God.
I desperately need you.
Everything I write is laced with prayer, redemption, and the bliss of surrender.
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You know I always love hearing from you.
Have you lost a loved one?
And if so, is the current pandemic compounding your grief?
Is it helping you understand your grief?