Happy Passover! Happy Palm Sunday! I hope you are smiling wherever you are!
This morning, I am smiling as I look ahead to Holy Week. I am looking forward to it because it feels like an opportunity to reset. Regardless of your religion, this is a moment for everyone to reflect and renew. Both feel more important now than ever.
The other day, I read a quote from Prince Harry that stayed with me all week long. Writing about his mother’s death and how it affected him as a child, he said: “I didn’t want to believe or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me.”
Prince Harry wrote those words in a foreword to a new picture book aimed at helping children cope with losing a loved one to COVID-19. His words resonated with me deeply because grief has left a huge hole inside of me, too. It’s a hole that I’ve tried to fill up over the years with going, doing, and accomplishing things. I’ve always been hoping to get ahead of grief so that I didn’t have to deal with it.
Grief is like that. It’s there, and you want to deal with it, but you know you have to carry on so you try to push past it.
All of us experience grief in different ways. We can lose a parent like Prince Harry did, or we can lose a sibling, a best friend, an aunt or uncle, a treasured pet, or a favorite job. It doesn’t matter who or what we lose. What matters is the hole inside and how we try to deal with it.
So many people are grieving in our midst at this moment. There are those who lost loved ones in the Alabama tornado. There are those who lost loved ones in the senseless Boulder and Atlanta shootings. There are those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. And, there are those who lost loved ones years ago and are still grieving.
So many people can’t accept the hole inside. So many people cannot accept the truth of their lives or the reality of losing someone they love. COVID brought not just isolation, but tremendous grief as well. And now it feels like it’s bubbling up everywhere.
I find myself thinking a lot about grief as we are inundated with stories about getting back to so-called normal. It feels like there is this urgency to get going—to where or what I’m not sure. It feels like a push to get back to what was.
For me, I don't even know what normal is anymore. Is it normal for someone who has struggled with their mental health to be able to buy an AR-15 so easily? Is it normal to storm the U.S. Capitol? Is it normal to try and suppress people’s right to vote? Is it normal for a woman in a bagel shop to start screaming the "n-word” at a clerk who won't serve her because she’s not wearing a mask per the store's policy? Is it normal for nothing to get done about any of these things?
The other night at dinner, my son said to me: “I don’t think we are headed for normal. I think we are going to experience another roaring ‘20s. People are pent up, frustrated, and raring to go. We are going to see a whole new normal.”
“Really?" I thought. “Gosh.”
The only thing I'm ready for is Holy Week. I’m ready to take a deep breath, take deep stock of my life, and spend some time thinking about how we can avoid going backwards and instead go forward differently. It’s so important that we move into this new season differently. If we don’t, what will we have learned?
We can’t come out of this pandemic and act as if nothing happened. We can’t turn a blind eye to all the pain and grief that our fellow citizens have experienced. We can’t say to ourselves, “Well, I wasn’t in Boulder or Atlanta, so it doesn’t concern me." We can’t say, "Well, I have my job, so tough luck to those who lost theirs.”
We Americans are resilient (see the new happiness report below). We carry on, dust ourselves off, and persevere. But what if we also took a step back? What if we took a deep breath and vowed to ourselves and one another that rushing toward so-called normal isn’t the best option right now? What if, regardless of one's religion, we used this week to feel one another’s grief and empathize with one another’s pain, loss, and fear about what’s ahead? What if instead of returning to what was, we vowed to be better? What if we vowed to be kinder and to come together in ways we didn’t before COVID?
This past year changed everyone. How could it have not impacted you? So before you roar into the spring and summer, take a beat and use this Holy Week to delve into your heart. If there is a hole there, honor it and have faith that you can mend it. If you are struggling, reach out and talk to someone, as Michael Phelps recommends below.
If you need to make amends in your life, there is no moment like right now. There is no better week than this one to do so. If your grief is overwhelming, I’m so sorry. But breathe and look to others who have written about their own grief journeys. Take solace and inspiration from them. They share their stories so that they can be beacons of hope for others.
And if you are blessed, as so many are, share your good fortune in whatever way speaks to you. One person can dramatically change another person's life for better or worse. We saw that yet again this week. We’ve seen how one person can take a life and ruin so many others in an instant.
So, in the coming days, think about being someone who strives to make life better for another person. Holy Week isn’t just any other week. It leads us into the Resurrection. It paves the way for renewal. Don’t think of going back to normal anymore. Head towards your rebirth.
See you in The Open Field.