GRIEVING NORMALCY IN A PANDEMIC


Last year was one for the history books. In my thirty-three years of life, I've never experienced a year like 2020 (and I'm guessing you could say the same). COVID-19 disrupted the planet, and almost every aspect of our lives has been affected by it.


As a society, we quickly had to learn what 'social distancing' meant and had to start wearing face masks. Events, gatherings, and plans got canceled, rescheduled, or altered. Gone were the days of getting together with friends and family without the worry of possible illness.


So much about our daily lives changed - our schedules, our hygiene practices, and our social lives. Zoom and Clicklist became unwelcome best friends. Hand sanitizer and frequent handwashing dried out our hands. Every decision about where we should go, who we should see, and what we should do became heavy burdens.


The virus complicated everything. New thoughts, worries, and questions entered our minds:

  • Is this cough just a cold, or do I have the virus? I don't think I have it, but I'm going to be seeing family this week. Should I get tested?

  • I was around someone this week who now has symptoms. Should I be tested?

  • Should I still spend time with a person who doesn't seem to be taking the virus seriously and is still going out to places without a mask?

  • When we hang out in our homes with non-family members, should we wear masks? Should we even let friends come over?

  • Should we cancel this event because of the rising cases?

  • Should we have the meeting/baby shower/fill-in-the-blank in person or on Zoom?

I could go on and on. These questions arise on a weekly, if not daily basis, and it's exhausting! I am so tired of social distancing, wearing masks, and worrying about getting sick or passing the virus to people I love.


I'm grieving normalcy! I miss my old life. I miss the life I lived before last March separated everything we knew to be normal into 2020's BC and AD: "Before Coronavirus" and "After Disaster" (not a real thing, I made that up--but seriously though!) Doesn't it feel like time split at this juncture?


I miss everything that I took for granted before this horrible virus came on the scene:

  • Getting together with friends & family and sitting close to them

  • Large gatherings of people (particularly church, worship concerts, and Bridget's Cradles support groups and volunteer work nights)

  • Hugging people and holding hands while praying

  • Going out into public and touching things and breathing fresh air without the fear that I've contracted a deadly illness

  • Having friends or family over without the worry that we've been exposed or passed a virus onto them

  • Playdates, dining in at restaurants, just going about normal life, etc.

And a million other things. I'm so tired of it all. I miss seeing my friends and family more often. I miss living a much more care-free life.


So how do we navigate the grief of missing normalcy? How do we allow God to use this season for good? I've written a list of a few things that have helped me in this difficult season:


Gratitude


2020 made it easy for us to focus on the negative aspects of our lives. If someone asked us to write a list of all the bad things we've experienced this year, it wouldn't take us long to compile that list! And I know it's also easy to perseverate on these disappointments in our minds too.


But one thing that has helped me is to focus on the blessings and hidden lessons that God has given during this year. I use an app called "Grateful: A Gratitude Journal" (linked here) that makes it easy for me to write down one thing I'm grateful for each day. The app also allows you to add tags, pictures, etc., which allows you to see themes over time (for me, Branton tops the list on my category tags of "What made me smile/laugh today").

Daily Journaling

Also in 2020 I started a 5-Year Daily Journal. Here's a link to the "One Line A Day" one I bought on Amazon. Every day you write a sentence or two of what you're feeling, what's going on in your life, or any prayer requests or praises you want to share. In the future, you'll be able to see five year's worth of your thoughts and feelings for each day of the year.


This practice has helped me articulate what I'm feeling, grieving, missing, longing for, or needing prayer for. In my 2020 journal, there's been a lot of ups and downs, but it's been neat to see God answering prayers. Things can change even in just a day! For example (if you can read my handwriting), you'll see what happened on May 20th! This was the day we found we were pregnant with baby #3 after struggling with infertility for almost a year. The happy news came just one day after I felt all hope for a baby was lost (and I thought I was just tired from our move to our new house!)

I believe this journal will continue to allow me to see God's faithfulness through life's ups and downs and reflect on the prayers He has answered.


Altered Connection

There are so many things we can't do, but that doesn't mean we should become complete recluses and isolate ourselves from the world (though we may be tempted to!) God made us to need connection with others. We weren't made to go through difficulties alone. We need friendship and fellowship with others.


So what can you do to feel connected with those you love? Here are a few ideas:

  • Facetime and Zoom your friends and family (I know you're tired of Zoom, but it's better than nothing!)

  • Gather in an open space (or outside if it's not cold) and sit six feet away; wear a mask when entering personal space or taking pictures (like I did with my friends for our "Christmas party" pictured above)

  • Drop off a gift or meal at someone's porch

  • Send a care package to a friend in the mail

  • Mail handwritten cards to friends/family

  • Check on people you love (or friends you haven't talked to in a while) and see how they're doing

There are so many other creative ways you can stay connected! I pray these ideas were helpful for you!


As we navigate 2021, I am praying that God continues to refine us through these difficult experiences. I pray that we would be grateful for our blessings, keep connected to those we love, and stay safe & healthy.


Love you all,


ashley


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© 2021 by Ashley Opliger