COVID-19 – Let’s Process the Trauma of the “Suddenly”.

The craft of writing involves putting words to an emotion. Masterfully presenting an argument. Defining how we feel so that someone else gets it! A writer wants to pull everyone in, express a thought, and ask, “Do you understand me?” Writing in a diary is one thing. Putting ourselves out there involves a level of vulnerability that makes us shudder inside. After all, it’s risky to bear your soul. But I must. For my sake and some of yours.

On Monday, March 9, when the battle between fear and wise preparedness ramped up, I swore that I was NOT going to write a piece that had anything to do with COVID-19. Everyone else is. I’m tired of seeing those 5 letters and 2 numbers everywhere. However, this morning I woke up with lump in my heart and people on my mind. The headache that woke me up periodically throughout the night was still present. I knew that I was full of stress that needed to be processed. Why? Because I, like you, have experienced too many unexpected changes in the last week. We have not been able to catch our breath. For real though. Can somebody press pause for a few days?

What are my stressors? Well, besides being stunned that various grocery stores were out of what I wanted, like bananas; besides daily cancellations and expectation adjustments (my boys were looking forward to AAU practice on Sunday), the lives of people in my community weigh on my soul. Maybe it’s my maternal disposition or the lay minister in me, but I’m sad for all of you.

Tears lurk behind my eyes as I think about you–the out-of-work mother. You were unable to join the party that cleaned out your local grocery store because you had just paid your rent. Your husband is also an hourly wage earner who works at the local college dining hall. Since classes will be online-only, he is waiting to hear about any temporary compensation from the college. I’m praying for you and I’m crying with you.

Then there’s you–the teacher who is having to adjust an interactive teaching method to a distant learning lesson that any parent can facilitate. You won’t see your students “for the foreseeable future”. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your students will miss you too.

To all the medical people reading this. I get it. My sister is not only a doctor, but the COO of a health system. The 13-hour days and fear atmosphere is depleting her energy. My mom wants to make sure she’s eating. Then, one of my closest friends is a Director of a Hospice organization. After days of adjustments, she’s figured out how to have her staff work remotely. But social distancing means she’ll only have her dog to eat dinner with for a couple of weeks.

This is my favorite season of the year, but I can do is stare at the Spring buds and let tears fall.

It’s not an issue of my faith in God. Stay tuned for another article I have in my heart about how this surreal season is an opportunity to “get our houses in order”. Therefore, my tears and the sorrow in my soul is not about an abundance of fear and a lack of faith. My tears are an expression of empathy: weeping with those who weep. This is the stress that I’ve needed to process. The trauma of the suddenly. The implications and consequences of financial lack and panic. Our current reality is overwhelming and I, and you, need to unload our stress.

Trauma is a situation that overwhelms the senses. Of course there are degrees and levels of trauma, like there are degrees of a burn. The well-stocked professional who will work remotely may not “feel” the quarantine effects as much as the out-of-work mother and father that I talked about. On a tangible level the differences are vast. However, on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level, each needs to process the “suddenlies” that none of us signed up for.

I let my tears fall. If in some way, I am carrying the tears of others to Jesus because they don’t know how to properly grieve change and loss, then I will stay in this moment, compose a lament, and acknowledge their pain. Intercession, a type of prayer on behalf of others, sometimes expresses an inner longing without using words. In this case, my tears are that expression.

I wish I could gather all of my peer-parents from our private school who felt like deer in headlights when the news of possible distance-learning came to their inboxes. I have the benefit of having home schooled my three oldest children from K-12. My temporary school room is ready to go. But many of my peers have not had a child at home every day, every hour, without even a play date on the horizon or a swimming lesson scheduled since…their child was a baby. I want to ask them, “What emotions have you felt in the last few days?” “What thoughts keep resurrecting themselves throughout the day?”(No filtering allowed!) I want to scoop up these precious souls who I won’t see “for the foreseeable future” and give them a big older mom hug. I know they will eventually adjust to a new norm and learn how to lean more on God. Like parents around our nation, they will deal with the struggle of cabin-fever and search the internet for non-tech activities on rainy days. Some will have to figure out how to schedule a zoom call when their kids–being kids–are bound to finish their worksheet in five minutes.

At least it’s Spring. Days are longer and the outdoors will become more vibrant living spaces. This will help our sense of well-being. Even if going outside requires you to stay 6-10 feet away from your neighbors because you live in an apartment building or attached housing, please take a touch-free walk every day. Ask your neighbors through closed doors how they are doing. There is a way to honor social distancing and be neighborly at the same time.

I want to say thank you–for reading this far as I have allowed myself to wander from one issue to another to give you an example of what processing can look like. Processing- deliberately facing mental and emotional stress involves being self-aware. Giving ourselves permission to acknowledge any emotion, in a safe place. Refraining from unhealthy coping mechanisms to ease the trauma of sudden change. For me, processing also requires my mind and heart to acknowledge the Holy Spirit, who helps me through every storm (John 14:26). He is the one unchanging factor in my life.

Right now, we have more time for quiet moments while the kids play outside, color or read for a period of time. I want each of you to process the effects of this pandemic well. I will be praying for you.

My next article “Opportunity Knocks. Get your House in Order” will help us embrace these weeks at home with our kids or, if you are single, how take advantage of being alone in a world full of people.

For information about my upcoming release, Cultivating the Souls of Parents, click here. Available March 17.

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