Reimagining Church Together

From Grief to Fatigue to Spiritual Rest

sad woman looking out window
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28-29

Early into this pandemic and our sheltering-in-place I started talking to people about their feelings of grief. In March and April perhaps you were feeling sad, irritable or unsettled. A friend told me that she was feeling guilty for being so out of sorts and depressed because she couldn’t go do what she wanted to do when there were people who were sick and dying from this disease while she was only inconvenienced. After I sent her two articles on the pandemic and grief, she reported feeling relieved after reading them. She realized that what she was feeling wasn’t selfish but a legitimate response to her own losses. She may not be sick or have a loved one dying, she may not be out of work and worrying about her bills, but she was grieving her particular losses and her grief was real.

In the beginning many of us were feeling various levels of grief because we were experiencing so many kinds of losses. When I looked at my planner for the months of March, April, May and June I saw concerts, meetings, dinners with friends, massages,a weekend visit by all of my husband’s children. I saw a trip to Omaha for a granddaughter’s graduation. A line was drawn through each and every activity in my planner along with the word ‘cancelled’. Losses and grief staring back at me. I talked to friends who were not leaving their homes even to get groceries. Their children and grandchildren couldn’t visit. No real human touch for the foreseeable future. Losses and grief staring back at them. What are some of the losses that you have experienced these past two-plus months? How are you dealing with your own grief from these losses?

Now we are into May. It is hard to see a light at the end of this tunnel. It is hard to make any future plans. I’m waiting to hear if the rest of the Shakespeare Festival plays are cancelled. I’m waiting to hear if my Becoming an Effective Grief Educator class in Ft. Collins in July will be cancelled. We are wondering if plans we have in October will be cancelled or if we will feel comfortable enough then to go and be in those crowds. What does your future look like? As uncertain as mine? How is that making you feel?

I ran across another article recently that put a name to what I and many others are feeling that goes beyond grief, Quarantine Fatigue. I might also call it Pandemic Fatigue. It is a weariness that goes to the bone. Quarantine Fatigue is more about “exhaustion and waning discipline surrounding the restrictions to daily life needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.” As more and more places open up and more and more people go out, staying home and isolated is going to get more and more wearisome. And yet, that is what many of us will do to protect loved ones we live with and/or ourselves. Pandemic Fatigue to me is wanting to hear something on the news that doesn’t have to do with COVID-19. Wanting to have a conversation with friends that doesn’t eventually get around to COVID-19, or masks, or social distancing. Have you been experiencing either or both of these kinds of fatigue?

Thinking about the grief and the fatigue led me hear the voice of Jesus in my ear. A gentle but steady and strong voice saying ‘come to me, you who is weary. Come to me you who is carrying some heavy burdens. Come here and I will give you rest. Here, beside me, you will find rest for your body, your heart, your soul and your mind.’

I am thankful for Jesus who understands the weariness of the situation. Who understands the fear, the grief, the worry, the sadness, the fatigue of what we have all been going through these past couple of months. I am thankful for Jesus who is walking it all with me. I am thankful for meditative music, like that of John Michael Talbot, which calms my mind and soul. I’m thankful for the Psalms which speak of lament, sorrow and joy. I am thankful for my books on Celtic Spirituality which help my mind center of God instead of staying stuck going around and around in that gerbil wheel.

I am also thankful for a God who has been helping me see some of the blessings that have been coming out of this whole situation. The Zoom Happy Hours with my husband’s children and some of the grandchildren. Out of state friends who can join two of the book studies I am in because it is on Zoom. Unscheduled time read and cross stitch. Getting odd chores done around the house that feel good to cross off of my ‘someday list’. What are some of the blessings that you have experienced amidst the grief and fatigue of life under COVID-19?

I want to leave you with a quote that has always been my prayer and lifeline in uncertain times. 

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Corrie ten Boom

I know my God. Therefore, when I’m grieving what I perceive I’ve lost because of this virus, and when I’m fatigued by how life has to be lived now because of this virus, I will know exactly where and to whom to go. I will image myself sitting with Jesus and soaking in his calm, his strength, his love, his peace.

May the peace of Jesus fill you today, and in the days ahead.

Barbara Condon

Barbara Condon

Independent Grief Specialist
- Certified in Death and Grief Studies
Retired ELCA pastor

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Penelope

    This is exactly what we all need to hear, Barb! Thank you so much for “naming it”. We, who are already weary of two months of this, are entering the next phase of loss and grief. Others are gleefully “returning to normal” but we are unsure whether doing so would be prudent for us and those we love. The 4 year old in me whines, “how come THEY get to go there but I have to stay home?!” There is a small loss each time I choose to NOT do something I love and have missed. I’ll be facing a lot of those small losses in the next few months.

    1. Barbara

      Penelope, I am right there with you and your four year old. Driving around and seeing restaurants with signs “Dine In Open” just allows new waves of grief and frustration to wash over me. Even though we never ate out a lot now that I can’t it’s like I want to all the more. It is a long road ahead.

  2. Jim Grunow

    Thanks, Barb, for your usual encouraging, Gospel centered words. You have given me two new “words” to mull over–Quarantine fatigue and Pandemic fatigue. I think I attempt too often an end run around my grief by quickly substituting for what I am crossing out in my weekly calendar. I do not want to deal with the loss. Maybe that is because I am too often unconsciously “afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” I too often function as though I am in control of my future when in reality I never am. You have ministered to me, my sister in Christ. You have given me much to think about in my morning walk.

  3. Jeannie Malek

    Beautifully said Barb. Thank you. You and Larry remain in my prayers. Love to you both. Jeannie (Corrie ten Boom has been instrumental in my life too)

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