Yesterday the front page of the New York Times listed the names of 1000 people who have died of COVID-19 and one sentence about each of them. They were only one percent of the 100,000 lives lost so far in the US, and there are no doubt tens of thousands more who have died as a result of this pandemic but who were never diagnosed.
Clara Louise Bennett, 91, Albany, GA, sang her grandchildren a song on the first day of school each year.
Valentina Blackhorse, 28, Kayenta, AZ, aspiring leader in the Navajo Nation.
Merrick Dowson, 67, San Francisco Bay Area, nothing delighted him more than picking up the bill.
Arthur Winthrop Barstow, 93, Hadley, MA, there is not a Louie L’Amour Western he had not read three times.
Ruth Skapinock, 85, Roseville, CA, backyard birds were known to eat from her hand.
I doubt it was coincidental that also yesterday morning, during my journaling time, I found myself weeping profusely. There is nothing happening in my own immediate life that would warrant such intense grief, and I don’t personally know anyone who has died from this pandemic. But the tears were nonetheless streaming down my cheeks, issuing forth from this reservoir of collective sorrow.
The transpersonal grief I was experiencing wasn’t just about the pandemic either. We are in a season of great loss. Great collapse. Great uncertainty. A time in which we are coming to a greater and greater awareness of the untenable nature of the world we had created and the needless suffering it has inflicted.
How do we grieve millions of species gone extinct?
How do we grieve the countless people who have died from preventable hunger?
How do we grieve the millions who live with the daily insults and perils of racism?
How do we grieve glaciers cracking apart and plummeting into the ocean?
How do we grieve the millions lost in war?
How do we grieve the erosion of American democracy?
How do we grieve the animosity, the hatred, the fear that runs rampant through our society?
Our culture doesn’t do grief very well. On the whole, we do everything we can to bypass it, ignore it, suppress it, deny it. We don’t understand the landscape of lament. We don’t know how to wail. Ours is the cult of the happy face. And when that fails us, we’ll do whatever it takes—lash out at one another, at ourselves, even go to war—to avoid feeling the grief we carry.
But when we avoid grief we deny ourselves a potent healing force, because grief has the capacity to cleanse us and make way for something new to arise. Grief breaks the heart open and provides a portal for the mind to awaken to the truth of Love. And right now that makes grief a powerful ally because humanity’s only future is that of the awakened mind and open heart.
When we truly give ourselves over to grief, anger and discord melt away. There is no longer any enemy to blame. When we give ourselves over to grief we meet one another in one of the most primal, universal experiences of being human, and from that shared experience we help one another become open to the possibility of rebirth.
Requiem for a Story
Each morning at the end of my journaling I bring my awareness to the Reality of union and ask what wants to be conveyed to me. Yesterday, in the aftermath of the tears I had shed, the image that offered itself was a white shroud.
I understood that the shroud being shown to me wasn’t for the people or planetary life that has been lost. It was the shroud for a story that is dying. A story that has defined our experience on this planet. A story that we have been living from and playing out. A story about the reality we have believed in. A story we commemorate each Memorial Day as we remember those who have died in war. It is the story of our separateness.
This is the story that is dying, and in this dying process some of us who are here to assist in this great global transition may find ourselves becoming the vessels for grief, anger, fear, and despair that don’t necessary belong to us but which need to be felt, acknowledged, and lovingly received so that they can be released.
But we may also find ourselves visited, as I have frequently, by a joy vaster than any we have ever known, an ecstatic gladness that is the harbinger of the Love that is taking form on this planet. We may find ourselves embodying the very essence of the world that is being birthed from these ashes of loss.