You can’t control the waves. Coronavirus thoughts.

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Grief is fluid. You can’t summon it, it happens to you. You can’t control it.

Trust me, I’ve been trying.

A big part of why I write is to hold myself accountable. If I pose a challenge to others then I am much more apt to rise to the challenge myself. One of the main reasons I’m writing about grief during Covid-19 is so I will commit to grieving myself.

I have been allowing myself to be in denial, to feel angry and even feel a little depressed. I haven’t been trying to suppress my feelings. But the last several days I have found, as soon as I start feeling those big feelings, I respond with judgement. I feel the big feelings.I know what they are. I name them and claim them.

Then I judge them. I judge myself.

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It’s as if somewhere along the way I decided it was okay to feel the feelings, but only for a few minutes. After that, they are no longer acceptable.

Let me give you an example. One of my struggles over the last several weeks has been the noise level in my house. I am an extrovert and I receive all of my energy from being around people – but I’m actually not super chatty. When I’m home I love being around people, but I am content sitting in silence. That is not the case for Bryan & Piper. They both have to have music on ALL the time. Piper is extremely loud and Bryan loves to tell me every detail about his day every time he gets a break from work. Bryan has set up his office in our bedroom and we have someone living with us in the basement, so I have nowhere to escape to. Yesterday I was in the middle of writing and all of a sudden everyone decided to take a break from work and school and came down to have lunch. I had just sat down, I had just settled into a moment of silence. All of a sudden it felt like everyone was yelling. Bryan’s stirring felt loud. I could hear Cole’s chewing across the room. Every word Piper said felt like she was screaming it in my ear. I freaked out and started going on and on about how loud everyone was and I just needed a space to myself. I started to cry and ran up to my room (which was free only because Bryan was eating lunch).

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I overreacted. I had a big response to a small problem. I responded that way because my anger stemmed from a place of grief. Within moments of ascending into my bedroom, I was mad at myself – I was mad at myself for reacting the way I did. “You know better.” I told myself.

As I spoke those words to myself, I heaped judgement upon my grief.

As I shared this with a friend yesterday, she challenged me to try to respond to my grief and emotions in a different way.

What if you responded to your grief and emotions with curiosity and compassion, not with judgement and shame?

Would that change anything? 

Let’s look at the same situation. When I started to feel frustrated, instead of allowing my anger to overcome me and propel me to overact, what if I took a pause instead. What if instead of blowing up – I stepped back and asked myself gently “What’s going on? Why am I feeling this way?” Your tone as you speak to yourself is key here. Just a simple change in your voice inflection can change everything. What if I asked myself those same questions from a place of curiosity and compassion instead of judgement?

I had an opportunity to test it out today.

After lunch today I found myself sinking quickly into funk. I paused and gently asked myself what I needed. I was feeling suffocated, I needed to go for a walk. So before I could begin to spiral downwards, I put my shoes and left for my walk. I listened to a podcast, breathed the fresh air in deeply and when I got home I was ready to move on with my day.

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You see the more we try to control grief, the more it will take control of us. It is something that happens TO US and we need to learn how to ride it’s waves with curiosity and compassion – not judgement.

Not only do we need to respond with curiosity and compassion to our grief, we need to embrace its fluid nature. As our grief changes, we need to recognize our need to change our response.

One thing I have realized over the last few days is that in different phases of grief, I need different things. The first couple weeks of staying at home I really needed a schedule. I needed to feel productive. I needed to set goals for myself to meet. But as I enter into the next phases of grief I am realizing that I need different things. I am feeling depressed about our current situation. Because of that, instead of a schedule bringing me joy and purpose, when I have something on the schedule – it is actually really stressful for me. If I make a list of people to contact in the morning, the list looms over me all day and causes anxiety. Last week, if I didn’t have a walk or a call on my schedule, I felt lost and fell apart. But as I move on with my grief journey, my needs are changing – scheduling a call feels completely overwhelming to me right now.

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And as I recognize that, I need to respond to those needs with compassion – not judgement. It’s not the time to muster up all the strength I have and gut it out. It’s the time to not only ask myself questions with curiosity and compassion, but respond to myself in kind.

Friends, grief is like the waves on the ocean. As much as we would love to control their current and movement, that is not our job. Our job is to simply ride the waves. Sometimes we will be able to stand and graciously surf the waves. Sometimes we will have to sit, close our eyes and cling to dear life as the waves crash upon the shore. But however we get there, however we land, our job is to pause, wipe ourselves off with compassion and grace and prepare for the next wave to come.

Because there is more,

Lisa

Is there Me in Team? Coronavirus thoughts.

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I love team sports. I had kids so that I could be a soccer mom. Selfishly I can’t wait to host a carbo load. I love team sports because I believe that they teach kids important life lessons. I would have really benefited from being on a team.

I say that, because by nature, I am not a team player. Because of past trauma, I have a deep felt need for self preservation. My personality also feeds into that tendency. I can get really enamored with my own ideas and I hate to waste time. It is incredibly invigorating for me to come up with a good idea and just run with it.

It has never been more important than now to be a team player. In order to flatten the curve, we need to stay home. If not for us, we do it for the greater good.

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But it’s hard for me to think about the greater good when by 1:00 pm everyday I feel like I’m going to internally combust. I know it seems contrary, considering I have a suppressed immune system, but I’m really struggling to stick to the current shelter-in-place recommendations. I’m also an extrovert and an activator. I feel depression settling in when I’m home for more than 4 hours.

So the question I am asking myself is: How do I survive, or even thrive, in this season with the greater good in mind?

As I ask myself that question, I’m reminded of what it means to be a team player. I’ve heard over and over that there is no “I” or “me” in “team”. I understand what people are trying to say, but I disagree.

I say that because the thing about being on a team is that it is not about you, but at the same time it is all about you.

Let me explain.

Each player on the team has a role. In order to be a valuable player on a team you have to excel in that role. In order to be effective in that role, it is going to take a lot of work on your part. Your team can encourage you and cheer you on, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work necessary to excel in your role on the team. The team is only as strong as its weakest link.

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So in this season, where we need to be a team more than ever, what do I need to do to excel in my role on this team?

For me….

I need to prioritize exercise. I’ve always valued exercising. But in this season, it is no longer just a priority, it’s a necessity. It stabilizes my mood and emotions. In order to be present and available for my kids I need to be in a good space emotionally. 

-I have to see one person a day that is not my immediate family. I go for daily walks with my neighbors, family and friends. We meet at a park and we walk 6 feet apart from each other. I connect with people this way so I don’t put myself or others in danger, but after I walk I’m able to appreciate my immediate family so much more. I’m just better afterwards. 

-I need to feel productive. I really value being productive, being efficient and adding value to the world. Right now, I can’t do those things in the same way I would like to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do those things at all. I have started asking God to give me names each day of people I should pray for and for people I should reach out to. I’ve also started making lists of things to do. I even put things on there I have to do each day like “brush your teeth”. It is very type A of me, but it also shows me what I have accomplished in a day. Without this I can so easily feel like I have wasted the day away.

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Those are some things I am recognizing that I need to do to add value to the team. Without those things, I am crabby, selfish and depressed – therefore I have nothing to contribute.

What do you need to do to excel in your role on the team?

To many this mindset seems counter intuitive, selfish even. I am not saying that we do what is best for us when it is best for us. That is selfish. No I am saying, with being a team player as the top priority, what do you need to do to excel in your role? What do you need to do to be a valuable player on your team?

You can’t just ask those questions of yourself. A good teammate is always asking his or her teammates how they can help or support them. A good teammate knows that the team is only as strong as its weakest link. A good teammate knows that no matter how hard they train, their efforts will be in vain if they are the only one training.

So take a minute and ask yourself, what do you need to be a valuable member of the team? What you need will not be what I need. After you have a few answers then go to your people, your team, and tell them what you need. Ask if it is something they can encourage and support. Ask for input and adjust as needed. Then ask what they need to succeed in their role. Ask them how you can support and encourage them. Make a game plan and commit to each other as a team.

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We are playing a new game that doesn’t have a playbook. We are learning our roles as we go. We are going to stumble. We are going to step on each other’s toes. But I believe if each day we show up ready to go, prepared to excel – we will win this game.

As a team.

Because there is more,

Lisa

What does grief look like? Coronavirus thoughts.

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My hope and prayer is that we can walk through this grief journey together, in real time, so we can come out on the other side – healthy, whole and ready for whatever is next.

Before moving forward I do want to note one thing. I talk about grief as if it is linear, it is not. It is dynamic. You can vacillate between the different phases within minutes, hours, weeks or months. But for the sake of clarity, I communicate it as if it were linear. So if you find yourself going in and out of different phases of grief, there is no need for alarm.

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A lot of people ask me how to know if they are grieving. Let me share about my emotions over the last few weeks. I hope my experiences will shed light into what grief may look like and where you are at in your own grief process.

Like most people, we had felt pretty distant and un-affected by COVID-19. We went to Duluth on vacation and had a nice time. We felt relaxed about the whole thing. Then something shifted in Bryan. He became concerned. He sat me down and told me that we shouldn’t go out anymore; we needed to quarantine ourselves. He told me the Coronavirus was much more serious than we thought. I actually think I laughed at him. Then I just started yelling. When I feel out of control, sometimes I just start yelling. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I’m an 8. It doesn’t ever work out well when people tell me what to do. I’m also a 110% extrovert and I hate being at home. I thrive when I’m social. So when he told me that we had to stay home, it was like telling me I was going to die (No drama here).

For the next couple days I kept trying to explain to him I absolutely could not stay home and he read the recommendations wrong. There is no way that we, Americans, had to be quarantined – that only happened to other people in other countries. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contrary evidence.

That is what Denial looked like for me.

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For others it looked like people flocking to tourist destinations in New York City on the weekend even though the city is in a state of crisis.

For others it has looked like people going on with their lives like nothing has changed, trying to ignore the reality around them.

Does any of that resonate with you?

I am no longer in denial, I’m angry.

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I am aware that all of the things I feel angry about are very shallow when you look at the big picture. But I believe this minimizing mindset is what keeps people from grieving properly. I am very aware I have a lot to be grateful for. I hold my grief and my gratitude in the same space. But I need to grieve these things, because I lost them. If I don’t grieve these things now, it will come out sideways later.

Keeping that in mind…..

I am so angry this is happening. I was substitute teaching, so I no longer have an income. I’m angry I have to figure out another job.
I am angry that I have to homeschool my children. It is on the bottom of my list of things I ever wanted to do.
I’m angry I can’t go to the gym. Not only is exercising a lifeline for me, it’s a social outlet for me as well.
I’m angry I can’t meet up with my friends. Like I mentioned earlier, I am 110% extroverted, if I am alone for more than 4 hours I get depressed.
I’m angry my daughter can’t properly transition out of 5th grade into middle school.
I’m angry my anxious daughter now has something else to be anxious about.

Do you relate to any of that? How about these?

Are you angry that you still need to go to work, while thousands of other people have the opportunity to work from home?

Are you angry that what seemed liked a secure job two weeks ago is suddenly now up in the air?

I mention denial and anger specifically because my guess is that is where the majority of us have landed so far. I will continue to process through all the steps as we continue on this journey together.

So now what? What do we do with this information? What are some practical steps to keep us moving forward through this process?

First, take a pause and evaluate where you are at. Are you still in denial? Are you still trying to move forward as if nothing has changed? Or are you feeling more quick to react, like your angry reaction is just below the surface? Are you finding yourself angry about little, stupid things?

Name it. Naming something is a huge step towards healing. Knowing what stage in the grief process you are in will greatly accelerate your journey towards healing. Being able to give language to my struggle has always helped me take leaps towards healing.

Claim it. After I got back from getting the kids’ school supplies this week, I started to cry. Bryan came and tried to comfort me. I told him, I’m just really angry all of this is happening and I need to cry for 10 minutes. I cried for about 10 minutes and was able to move on with the day.

Then give it to Jesus. You will hear me say it again and again, grief is beautiful and God created it as a pathway to healing. Ask God to join you in your journey, he will meet you there. As I cried on the floor in the bathroom, I told God how angry I was that this was all happening – but that in the midst of it all I loved him and knew that he would make good out of bad. Then I got up.

Then do it again. As emotions rise up, stop and evaluate where you are at. Then name it, claim it, give it Jesus and repeat. Your emotions will begin to change, they won’t necessarily get easier – just different. That means you are making progress. Rejoice, take a deep breath and then start the process all over again.

We are going to get through this friends. We are going to get through this together, one step at a time. .

Because there is more,

Lisa

Let’s grieve together: Coronavirus thoughts.

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As a writer I have been challenged to find my “niche”. People have access to so much information, so many stories, all the advice they ever wanted and every opportunity to be inspired. So I’ve asked myself….

Why do I write? What unique perspective do I have to offer a world who has all the inspiration and information at their fingertips?

Grief. 

Yup, grief.

I have asked God those two questions over and over again looking for a different answer. But each time I’ve asked, in my spirit I have heard him say “Speak to people about grief.”

I’ve always felt like that was such an unusual calling, but the last several days I have wondered if he has given me this passion for such a time as this.

I say that, because we have all lost so much, so fast. We have lost our world that felt safe from super viruses, rations and quarantines. We have lost our sense of normalcy, everything feels unsteady and unknown. We have lost our ability to see the people we love, in fear of making them sick. We have lost the life we had just a few weeks ago.

I have had a lot of opportunities to grieve in my life and I have not done it well. I have paid the price for that and so have the people I love. I want people to learn from my mistakes.

I want people to have a better understanding of what grief looks like in real life. It doesn’t just look like a weeping widow or a desperate mother. If you are looking, you can see in a person’s eyes or hear it in their tone. You can observe it in people’s shoulders or how they hold their gaze. If you are looking, you’ll see it all around you.

Especially right now.

The Coronavirus is still pretty new to us, so we are in the early stages of grief. Most of us are still in shock. My hope is that I can unpack the stages of grief in real time, so that we can avoid the bottled up effects of not grieving properly later.

You see, we need to experience these feelings now or they will come out sideways later.

For now, just take my word for it.

Last week I wrote about the importance of grieving. I’ve written extensively about my story (Transplant) and what grief has looked like in my life (start with Denial). I’m going to take some of those thoughts and reframe them in a way that can hopefully help us make sense of the emotions we are experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus.

But before we dive right in, I want to share a few basic thoughts I have around grief.

It’s beautiful. I love talking about grief. It is universal. Every human experiences it, whether they realize it or not. It’s completely predictable and unpredictable. God created it. He created it as a pathway to healing – a pathway to wholeness. Because God created it, he will meet us there. Grief gives us a glimpse of clarity in the midst of chaos.

You can trust Jesus and still grieve. After my transplant (Transplant) I believed I couldn’t be upset about what happened. I felt like grieving meant I wasn’t grateful. My world was black and white. When I felt sad, I felt like I was betraying God, Cheri (my donor) and her family. I was alive and someone literally had to die so I could live. What did I have to be sad about? I experienced an incredible breakthrough when I realized that I can be sad and grateful at the same time; it does not have to be one or the other.

Someone dying isn’t the only cause of grief. Grief comes after loss. You need to grieve loss. Again, I didn’t give myself permission to grieve early on because I didn’t die. In fact, it was the opposite, I felt I had risen from the dead! But I lost so much that day. I lost my life as I knew it. I lost my health. I lost my innocence. I lost my memories. I lost my body. I lost my world that felt safe and made sense. We also have all experienced a lot of loss in a short amount of time. Like I mentioned earlier, we have lost the world that felt safe from super viruses, rationing and quarantining. We have lost our jobs. We have lost our savings. We have lost our freedom to be out and about. We have lost control. And it is just the beginning.

After encountering loss, you will experience grief whether you realize it or not. That is the reason I want to start the conversation about grief now, so that as much as possible, we can navigate our feelings together in real time. Denial is the first phase of grief. It is our initial reaction to loss. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s also God’s protection. It can cause us to go into shock. It’s the adrenaline that allows us to plan funerals and give inspiring tributes in front of hundreds of people. Like I said, grief is beautiful and I strongly believe God designed denial as a protection. It allows us to get through those first few moments, few days or even months. But the problem is, a lot of people stay there. People may acknowledge their loss, but in their heart they can’t let go. They refuse to redecorate. They will not change routine. In my case, when I entered into denial – I didn’t take care of myself like I should have. I wanted to believe I still had a healthy 18 year old body. I didn’t care that I was more susceptible to skin cancer, I wanted a tan. I didn’t care that I needed more sleep, I didn’t want to miss out. Denial is designed as a defense mechanism, not a way of life. And unfortunately many of us live there, although exhausting, it feels safe. As I have mentioned, the problem with unresolved grief is that it will come out sideways later.

Unresolved grief will quickly surface in the presence of another person’s grief. There is an appropriate sadness that occurs when we hear of another’s loss. Then there is the unresolved grief response. Have you ever heard a story of someone else’s grief and all of a sudden you have been overwhelmed with deep sadness? Have past painful experiences quickly risen to the forefront of your mind as you listen to someone else’s story? It’s happened to me, more than once. The person that is sharing doesn’t even have to have a similar experience that I have had. I have tried to ignore those feelings, push them aside; I’m just being empathetic, right? Nope, these feelings are deeper. They rise up within you from a deep, dark place. Sit there, don’t ignore those feelings. Something doesn’t belong, that past experience hasn’t been processed and put in its proper place. Don’t be surprised that if in this season past pain resurfaces. I don’t know all the psychology behind it, but I do know that grief begets grief.

We are in uncertain times. We don’t have a playbook on how to navigate this. But we have been given a path, a path that brings clarity into the chaos and creates a pathway to healing and it’s called grief. God never promised that our journey would be easy, just that he would be with us on our travels. God created grief and will meet you there. You will see me there too, we are all in this together.

Because there is more,

Lisa

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How do you want to remember this season? Coronavirus thoughts.

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When I was a sophomore in college my boyfriend (not Bryan) broke up with me. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. I was sure that I was going to marry him. I remember sitting in a quiet space in the library (the most private place I could find a phone – cell phones were still pretty new and I didn’t have one) sobbing to my friend over the phone completely unaffected by the people that kept walking by giving me odd looks. For whatever reason this breakup was really hard on me. I felt so out of control, there was nothing I could do or say to change his mind (which I am super grateful for now). No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I needed something else to think about. I needed to refocus my thoughts.

I had probably done it before, but this is the first time I remember distinctly asking myself “What do I want to learn in this season?” “What do I want to accomplish?” What memories do I want to have when I look back at this season of life?” 

I decided I wanted to learn how to play guitar, so I convinced a friend of mine to give me free guitar lessons. I wanted to learn how to go rock climbing, so I decided to work as a Wilderness guide at a summer camp. Although that was a tough season of my life, I have great memories of sitting with my friends playing our guitars. I had a great summer as a Wilderness guide, I learned a ton and made lifelong friends. 

I am now grateful for that season. 

I have been in several seasons since where I’ve needed to ask myself those questions.

I feel like we all are in a similar place today. The Coronavirus has changed all of our lives forever. The Coronavirus is here and while there are ways to adapt, we cannot ignore its impact on the world. I don’t know about you but, if I let it, it can consume my thoughts. I need something else to think about. I need to refocus my thoughts. 

I’ve started to feel panicky the last two days as our new reality is starting to set in. Homeschooling my children is literally a nightmare to me. I’ve had to stop myself from going there and have started asking myself those same questions I did so many years ago “What do I want to learn in this season?” “What do I want to accomplish?” What memories do I want to have when I look back at this season of life?” 

I am still coming up with my answers, but here are a few I have come up with so far. 

• I have always been intrigued by P90X (workout program), but I don’t really like working out at home. Seeing that is my only option, I decided to give P90X a try. You guys- It’s killer!

• I want to learn the joy of taking walks. I generally don’t like taking walks, they feel inefficient. Why walk when you can run? My goal is to take one walk a day with a friend (6 feet apart obviously) and truly take in what’s going on around me. 

• I want to be present. I rarely just do one thing at a time. I want to fully present with my family. I want to listen. I want to say yes to my kids more often than not. I want to put my phone aside.

• I want to re-discover talking on the phone. I hate talking on the phone, but I hate feeling disconnected more. I don’t know that I can do it every day, but I want to call someone just to talk a couple times a week. 

• I want to update and upgrade my blog. I want to write a backlog of blog posts. My goal is to write at least an hour a day. 

This is what I have come up with so far. None of these goals are crazy or unattainable, but they are just enough to give me something else to focus on. I need that. Because I don’t know about you, but the minute I let my thoughts roam, I get very overwhelmed. 

So as we enter the weekend, take some time to ask yourself those questions. When you look back, what do you want to remember about this season? 

You will still grieve. It is still going to be hard. Life will be different. But I don’t know about you, but those are not the things I want to remember. 

I want to remember going on walks with my friends. 

I want to remember pressing into my calling in a deeper way. 

I want to remember investing in my relationships in creative ways. 

I want to remember reconnecting with people near and far.

I want to remember intentional, life giving time with my kids. 

How do you want to remember this season? 

We are in this together!

Because there is more,

Lisa

Grief. Coronavirus thoughts.

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Oddly, I feel like I might have a few helpful thoughts as we navigate this new reality. There have been several times in my life where I have felt like the life I knew and loved was quickly taken a way from me. Over the next several weeks, I am going to share few thoughts on loss, anxiety, grief and more in the context of the coronavirus.  I’m not going edit my posts or try to polish them up, I’m just going to share what is on my heart. You will all learn how really horrible I am at spelling and grammar.

I have been consistently surprised over the last several days by people’s reactions towards the Coronavirus. My husband who tends to be relaxed and positive, is really feeling the gravity of the situation. A friend of mine who can make anything into a party is breaking down in tears several times through out the day. I, who struggle with anxiety and health trauma, have not been afraid of the Coronavirus at all. I am much more irritated by not being able to go to the gym and that I can’t hang with my friends. As our new realities set in, these feelings will evolve and change.

You see, we are all grieving.

If you read my blog, you know that I am passionate about grief. I believe that God has created grief as a pathway to healing. Grief is our bodies natural reaction to death and loss.

And in case you didn’t notice – we have experienced a lot of loss in a very short amount of time.

Are you in shock? Do you feel like you are moving through the world with your eyes wide open, taking one step at a time – not really sure what is happening?

Are you denial?  Are you moving forward acting like nothing is changing around you?

Are you angry? Are you finding yourself lashing out to the people around you for no apparent reason?

Do you feel depressed? Are you struggling to find a reason to get out of bed?

Are you bargaining, wondering what we all did wrong? Are you trying to come up with a plan for this to all go away?

Or have you already moved to a place where you have accepted the fact that things will never to be same?

We are grieving.

There is a very good chance that you will experience all these emotions over the next days, weeks and months. You may experience them all within seconds, minutes or hours.

My encouragement to you is that when you find yourself in those places, take a pause. Feel the feelings. Sit in them for a minute. Ask God to join you there, he will meet you. He is committed to your healing and he has created a path for you to do so. It’s called grief.

Friends, life will never be the same. We have lost the world that once knew; the world that felt safe from things like super viruses, quarantines and rationing. We need to grieve that loss. I know that in my life when I have taken the time to grieve, it’s always been worth it. It’s not worth it because it’s easy or even because things are necessarily better on the other side. It’s worth it because after I grieve, I can see the beauty in the ashes. I see light in the darkness.

And not only that, after I grieve, I’m a little bit more ready for whatever comes next on the other side.

I pray that you will all experience a peace that passes all understanding in this uncertain time.

Because there is more,

Lisa