Never before (at least in my lifetime) has something shut down the world like this. I’ve experienced large moments where it felt like the world stopped: the shooting at Columbine, 9/11, Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, etc. I’ve even experienced outbreaks of diseases before: swine flu, bird flu, Ebola, Zika, etc. But this is the first time where I feel like the world has actually stopped, or at least been told to stop. There are towns on quarantine throughout the world, people are told to stay in their houses, meetings are cancelled, sporting events are cancelled, schools are cancelled, church services are cancelled… And this is the thing, that on an individual level, people are struggling with the most… or it is at least what I’ve heard people struggle with the most.
It might seem silly or trivial in the face of such obvious other darkness, but we need time to mourn moments lost: trips to new places or to see old friends, high school or college seniors losing out on their last basketball game or soccer game or track meet, no prom or graduation or commencement for some students who worked so hard to get where they are, no seeing your team who made it to the NCAA March Madness Tourney make a run (this one is a little close to home for my MSU Spartans), wedding venues cancelling receptions, visits to or from nursing homes, and much more. These are moments that we’ve lost and some we will never get back, and that is worthy of our grief.
Placing these things next to much bigger issues and saying, “these don’t matter compared to this!” is called minimizing, and I personally don’t find that helpful. Of course we know that the health of our community is more important that the amazing run Michigan State totally would’ve had this year (you can’t prove me wrong!).. but that doesn’t take away the sadness of losing those moments, however trivial. So we need to give them time to be grieved.
Take a moment, scream into your pillow, punch a punching bag, go into your car and shout-sing that one song that helps you get all the feels out. Don’t use minimization to try and get yourself over these lost moments, but mourn them, feel the loss, and then use imagination. Have your own prom with your 9 closest friends, google hang out with as many people as you can as your officiant does your wedding in your home, write a letter (and honest to goodness letter) to your grandparent or loved one in the nursing home.
We might be isolated during these times, but we are not alone. Let’s be inventive with how we can be community. Will we ever get those lost moments back? Probably not, but let’s make new moments in their place. Not to take the place of or in some way make up for what we’ve lost, but instead to help move us forward into a place where we’re no longer pushing our grief down and pretending that it doesn’t suck. Because, I do believe, then we will be in a better place to do what is best for our community, look out for one another, help those who are losing livelihoods and more, and truly do all that we can to be the light that this world needs.