As I have worked and walked with those who are supporting others in various forms of ministry and pastoral care, I have found that the fear that accompanies the Covid crisis and lockdown, permeates everything.
People are experiencing loss that has already happened and fear loss that may come.
This Anticipatory Grief is often anxiety based, weaved with feelings of sadness and anger through heightened awareness of impending loss. In today’s world it can be triggered by instant updates of speculation and detail.
There is something of the sense that whilst already in a storm, there is more “storm” to come, held within uncertainty itself. Anticipatory grief is often centred on death, and fears of loss of health and well- being. But the outworking of circumstantial matters of insecurity eg finance, employment, disruption and displacement are also present.
Anticipatory grief holds the fear of “What will I do if…”
Families with loved ones who are hospitalised with Covid will be experiencing anticipatory grief because they cannot access them. They cannot “see” how this is affecting them, and yet they know how seriously ill they are. The reports from the hospital may be clear but their visual and physical presence is distant. This creates feelings of separation, isolation and loneliness. Fear of not having closure and of not being able to honour the deceased with the kind of funeral they would have chosen is distressing for them and for those supporting them.
I have found that trying to remain in the present and encouraging others to do so is a helpful grounder. It provides peace for today and the ability to focus on today’s demands because we are not distracted by tomorrows. It certainly does not come easily and it is very counter cultural, but there is something of a daily, and sometimes hourly response to Jesus instruction to “Fear not…”
Of course, there is today’s grief. Today will hold losses of life and matters of living and our alongside presence in that is part of our call. We can encourage those who are grieving to remain in today, in the present, so that their grief is not increased by anticipating tomorrow.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…” Matthew 6:34