By Rev. Carol Bodeau
Over the last months, I have spoken innumerable times about the importance of adaptation—with regards to the pandemic, and our changing lives; with regards to social struggles, and how they impact us personally; and with regard to changes in our congregation and community. I really believe the things I say, but I don’t always realize just how hard they can be to implement in times of crisis.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my brothers had a very close call with Covid. He is, thankfully, back at home and even back at work after a scary stay in critical care. I did the things I am trained to do in such situations: provide emotional support and also use my training as a Reiki practitioner to support his physical healing. This crisis came close on the heals of supporting my mother-in-law-to-be during a medical crisis related to cancer treatment, and was followed immediately by a medical crisis for my beloved cat. So it was a tryptic of trouble that knocked me for a loop. I know all those things about adapting in crisis, about adjusting expectations, about how to move through these things, but…
But I’ve learned something in the past few weeks: the importance of grieving and mourning during crisis cannot be over-stated. Even when things “turn out okay,” even when the test came back negative or the PET scan or xray was clean, even when the treatment works and the community rallies around…there is still loss. It’s actually a very subtle kind of loss, too, when things “turn out okay” and that makes it easy to disregard or underestimate the impact of the loss part of trauma. Trauma of any sort means we’ve lost a certain kind of stability or familiarity or ‘sameness’ that takes time to recover. And sometimes we have lost a sense of ourselves that’s not recoverable at all.
And, boy oh boy, is grieving exhausting! After yet another trip to the vet today, in which things got “taken care of” and things promise to “be okay” I found myself literally crashing at my desk. Falling asleep sitting up. Adapting is necessary, and it also takes a LOT of energy.
I hear myself saying to others with great regularity “You need to take some time and rest and practice self-care.” And I often find myself perplexed at why others seem to keep going and going when they really need to stop and be still. But this week it occurs to me that perhaps, at least in some cases, we’re avoiding grief. Maybe because we think it’s not appropriate in the ‘not so bad’ situation we’re in, or because we think we need to ‘get back to business’ now that the crisis has passed. For whatever reason, though, we tend to carry on as soon as the crisis seems to be over.
But crises don’t just end when they end; they leave scars, they deplete us, and they take time for healing. So, as I let this new level of understanding sink into my body, I invite you to consider how you might need some of the same sort of time to grieve, and to move trauma out of your body, mind, heart and spirit. And it doesn’t have to be recent trauma, either, because trauma has a way of sticking around. For me, I am eternally grateful to The Great British Baking Show and Netflix for an easy way to turn off and just rest. But I also am grateful for moments of deep sadness, that have no apparent reason for happening. In the magical way our systems somehow know how to create homeostasis if we let them, I don’t have to have a logical reason to surrender to this essential part of change, growth and adaptation.
Here’s to all of us allowing ourselves to take as much time as we need, logical or not, to recover when times are tough.
Wishing you all the joys and beauty of autumn,