“How does the word ‘Joy’ make you feel right now?”
That was a question at our most recent Saturday Sessions, an initiative of the Diocese of Parramatta’s Pastoral Planning Office. It invited me to reflect about what joy is, and then to reflect on what grief is. Surely, I am not feeling any grief in my life? I am happy and healthy. My family is healthy. I have a job to be grateful for and it is flexible and accommodates current conditions. Of course, I am full of joy. I am not feeling grief. Or am I?
A friend recently shared a post on social media about seven types of grief. It was fascinating to read. The one that stood out for me was “Ambiguous Loss”. Ambiguous loss is what happens when you’re not entirely sure who or what you’ve lost. In my conversations with friends, particularly other parents who are at home with school-aged children as well as working from home full time, I have recognised this sense of loss and a definite grief coming through.
For myself, I have been working from home with primary and high school aged children for six weeks, balancing my work and schoolwork as well as the extra-curricular activities that are all being ‘zoomed’. The time at home has been a source of joy as I have learnt so much about my children. We have fostered a newfound respect for each other which is something to celebrate. However, it has not been without its frustrations and has left me on days in the front yard in tears with an overwhelming sense that I am not capable and that I should be handling this better. Feelings of guilt follow because I think that I have nothing to get upset about. I should be joyful because we are safe and well.
When I read about ambiguous loss, I felt a sense of relief. I did an exercise of standing apart from my feelings and tried to look at the feelings of overwhelmingness and loss. Why would I be feeling this way? I am an extrovert – a people person and the face-to-face interaction with others gives me enormous energy to do life. One of the greatest things I have missed is the corridor conversations at work with my colleagues and the ideas that are generated in those spontaneous encounters. I have missed the laughter and the banter that comes from spending time with a group of adults who share the same interests as me. I am grieving that physical companionship.
I have also missed the routine that existed pre-isolation. I am an extrovert and value being in control. I like to know what I am doing and have things organised well. Having a plan for my day is something that works very well for me. In isolation, I have lost that routine. And whilst I have tried to plan our days, the will of primary aged children can very much topple the best laid plans! When I looked at it, the loss of routine and the resulting feeling of failure is something I am still grieving.
Grief is real for so many people at this time. Yes, we will experience moments of joy, and yes, we can celebrate them. And yes, we will also experience moments of grief, and yes, we can cry and vocalise our loss because they are real and they are valid. And we will experience joy and grieving differently to each other, and that is okay. In these times of isolation, it is extra important to keep an eye out for signs of people reaching out for help and to offer a word or gesture of support. We are all in this together.
May is the month of Mary. Let us ask for the intercession of Mary to journey with us in any grief that we may be experiencing and to welcome and appreciate moments of joy in our lives and in our world.
For urgent help or information please call CatholicCare (02) 8843 2500, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
Saturday Sessions is an initiative by the Pastoral Planning Office, Diocese of Parramatta. It offers online conversation and group sharing for anyone who has a desire to grow and share faith.
People are invited to come together to share thoughts in response to a video or audio piece that they have been given to watch or listen to prior to the conversation.
A different speaker and topic is offered each week and offers a perspective on life and faith. Participants are encouraged to take this initiative into faith communities as another way to be creative in love and respond to such a time as this. Contact Lisa at email@example.com for information.
Lisa Bright is the Project Officer for the Pastoral Planning Office for the Diocese of Parramatta.