written by Rory Hunter
This month marks the one year anniversary of the COVID 19 pandemic. A year of collective grief for the world. We grieve those who have lost their lives. We grieve for those who are struggling to make ends meet during economic crisis and job loss. We grieve for our normal lives and the disruption in routine. We grieve for our children, their education and mental health in isolation. We grieve for our community and friendships, the loss of personal contact. We grieve for our brokenness as a nation, racial injustice and tensions. How our hearts ache with this tremendous grief!
The weight of this year has been heavy on my heart. My mantra of “Don’t get sick!” has been deafening. The anxiety I carry to stay healthy as a widow/single parent raising three children never truly lightens. I wonder what the effect of this COVID year has had on the ongoing stress of single parenting, raising a child with special needs, and grieving all of the loss of the past. Can my body withstand a continually breaking heart?
I had to have my heart checked. This thought hounded me. My paternal grandfather died around the same age from heart failure and my father suffered from a heart attack and underwent double bypass surgery about eighteen years ago. I had convinced myself that I would follow the same fate. A month ago I received an email from a local hospital with the subject heading “The latest in heart health news”. Now I don't believe in coincidences, so I knew I needed to inquire about the heart screenings they mentioned in the email.
After three hours of tests, questions, EKGs and ultrasounds, I am happy to report that my heart is pumping and working like a champ. All valves and arteries are squeaky clean. Nothing to worry about on the heart front. There are still countless other concerns I can focus on and keep my “Don’t get sick!” mantra alive, but I will set those aside for a moment.
The heartache we feel in grief is real. The ache I felt all year was reminiscent of the other times in my life that I suffered from loss. If my heart is able to continue to beat strong in spite of the ache, and the grief I feel is not going to kill me, if it is not a warning signal, then what is the point of it?
My initial reaction to the ache is to withdraw, hide and hope that it subsides quickly. Yet, what if the ache is not a warning signal but an invitation? What if it is not something that we should hide from, ignore, drown out, or numb ourselves from? What if it is a sacred moment that we must step into? Glennon Doyle explains the purpose of this ache in her book “Untamed” when she writes, “The Ache is not a flaw. The Ache is our meeting place. It’s the clubhouse of the brave...It is where you go to meet the world. The Ache is love.” It gives me peace to think of the commonality of humanity. To grieve is to be human. Perhaps we were never more human than we were this year. Perhaps we were never more aware of each other as we were this year. Perhaps this year was an opportunity to love one another in our collective grief.
I pray that COVID will soon be a distant memory, but I know from my own life experience that no one is immune to grief. We all will feel the pain of heartache at some point. Don’t be afraid of the ache. Think of it as the world welcoming you into the clubhouse of the brave, and this card carrying member will be there waiting for you.