When the rugs of ritual and routine get pulled and ripped from under our feet, when what we thought we could depend on isn’t reliable, when what was stable turns out to be fragile, it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to grieve. I’ll say that again. Go on now, grieve.
I’m preaching to myself, of course. I’d rather write about something else because I know that when I list the things that I am sad about, it will hurt. I will cry. I’ll feel a bit weak, and a bit like a child.
“Grief sucks,” writes Anne Lamott in her memoir entitled Traveling Mercies.
“Unfortunately, though,” Lamott continues, “avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit. Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy… A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won’t hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination.”
Okay then, Anne Lamott. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to write this down. But I don’t want to miss the best things, either. Lord, have mercy. Jesus, help.
I’m sad that people all over the world are suffering. I’m sad that hospitals are overrun, sad that doctors in Italy are having to decide who should get treatment and who should be passed by.
I’m sad for the people who are flying to get home, then waiting, waiting, to be released at the airport. I’m sad that the schools are closed because I will miss my students — I won’t get to see them in person, perhaps for a very long time.
I’m sad that my church could not hold Sunday services. I’m sad that libraries are closed. I’m sad that award ceremonies are canceled, that weddings are being postponed. I’m sad for my brother, who is a substitute teacher. I’m sad for all the people who now feel alone.
I’m taking deep breaths now. My chest feels less heavy. I’m glad I wrote some sad things down. I need to do this more often.
April Pickle lives under a green roof with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and teaches journalism and literature at a university-model high school. One cold day, when April was in the fourth grade, she closed the car door on her winter coat and, unbeknownst to her or her father, prevented the door from latching all the way. Half a mile down the road, her daddy turned a corner, the door flew open, and she fell out. Thanks to the thickness of the coat, she was unharmed.