Last weekend I heard about grief/sadness/depression soup on the TED Radio Hour, a potent amalgam particular to the intensity of this COVID-19 passage. I think it was part of an episode called Processing the Pandemic, but I am not 100% sure. (Yet another thing to process, apparently, as place and time run together, and you grow confused about where you were yesterday.)
But back to that soup. Grief/sadness/depression swirls around for a while, then hits overwhelm, like a pot of broth on the stove that foams over. After some reasonably productive hours, there is simply an inability to process any more. Full stop, and short circuit. Shut down.
In these disorienting moments, we tender humans coping with such an unprecedented global situation may just need a time out. This could involve diversion, sleep, and tears.
Poet Adrienne Rich advises us in Sources: “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors. I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.”
What places are we making, in order not to give ourselves away? For the processing of grief/sadness/depression soup. A space for being in the overwhelm, perhaps merely stating that we have never been here before. And are actually not quite clear how to proceed.
Creating open, supportive places is the potential work of family, friends, and work colleagues. It is the infusion of emotional and spiritual intelligence, particularly into arenas which tend towards inadequate human connection. It is certainly the work of congregations in 2020-21, as we attempt to do what we have always done in new ways, while letting go completely of what can no longer be.
Perhaps we can all count ourselves warriors, making places for processing, with the intention of lessening suffering. Maybe we will change the laws of history, because that which is unfolding is something beyond what we had imagined possible. In ways both terrible and promising.
If before there was no place to sit down and weep, and is still none now, I invite you to make the place. Join with others and receive support for the long haul. When the grief/sadness/depression rises, simmer with kindred spirits. Find a way to turn down the heat before the foam froths over. Above all, stay gentle with your spirit. We are going to be in the soup awhile.