Grieving First, Then Embracing Hope

By: Sandy Churchill

What do playgrounds, coffee shops, graduations, First Communions, funerals, and birthday parties have in common? For our family, these represent losses or changes during Covid. This year alone, there were funerals we had to attend “virtually,” along with both bridal and baby showers, and several landmark occasions were either postponed or canceled. Like everyone during a legendary pandemic, there have been key celebrations and gateway events—college graduations, First Communions, weddings, and signature birthdays where the days were not carried out with the “normal” in-person joy, hugs, and festivities.

So where do playgrounds and coffee shops come in? As in any economic crisis, places close, businesses cannot stay afloat, and extended restrictions for hours of operation and curbside-everything can sink even a lively shop or eatery despite best efforts and intentions. Our favorite two coffee shops closed recently and they represented far more than coffee and breakfast treats. They were a home away from home for my son and me as we tackled tricky homeschool assignments, tax prep, writing deadlines and various work projects over the years. A smoothie, crazy chai-of-the-month and legendary cranberry shortbread softened the stress and made us feel invincible! This was a community, warm and inviting, somehow empowering us to face the “impossible” frequently during school terms throughout the year. Now closed, it feels like a “death” in many ways, and these losses have cast an Addams-Family cloud over the budding hope that was sustaining us through the winter months during Covid.

For different reasons, our long-time playground was leveled this summer as the town set out to build a new one. Though not due to Covid, this “loss” is one of memories tied to favorite playground equipment all three of my children enjoyed. Despite a new one being constructed, the loss is personal, tangible, and genuine.

A recent chat with a counselor (a hero in my book!) reminded me that we have to grieve loss first, before we can accept change and see hope ahead. No matter the size of the losses—larger ones with sickness and death of relatives and friends—vs. changes in our routines, loss of activities, jobs, favorite restaurants, and such, the losses are real. Sadness and grief need to be felt before we can move on. I didn’t just cry over the losses in birthdays and graduations and showers and kids’ plays, First Communions, and the summer camp I teach. I cried over the playground, the closed coffee shops, and other seemingly-small things. But only after that was I reminded that there might be future places that open after Covid, there is hope ahead with extra celebration, and there is gratitude right here.

My oldest daughter endured her entire pregnancy during Covid and the grief of feeling so separate for safety reasons was palpable. But my beautiful grand-boy is here! He is a miracle! Sweet baby Henry is a smiling bundle of energy and at just four months old, has beamed sunshine over our whole family. Since we couldn’t do the baby shower and Christening in the traditional over-the-top Churchill way, we are optimistic about a joyous first-birthday bash in the fall!

The new playground will hold new memories for our giggling grandbaby, and we can still cherish the memories from the predecessor in conversation and photos.

New coffee shops will emerge and new homeschool haunts are on the horizon, even though we cannot see them yet. A glimmer of joy returns, day by day, like the gentle warm light of spring, softening grief, reminding us of the good yet to come.

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