Kids and Validation during COVID

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

The Worst of Times

We are in trying times. Many of us are trying to get through the day. And then we are faced with an angry, sullen teenager. Or a toddler that is pitching a fit.
We really do want this to be over, quickly, don’t we?
We want to shout: “Get over it! Just look at everything I have to handle right now!”

But this sends the worst message to children.
It tells them we only see a symptom and not their inner emotion.
It tells them they are a burden to us, a nuisance, a problem.
Is this the message we want to send to these dear souls that have been entrusted to us? To shut them down means we don’t care.
Instead, we need to validate them.
Matt 19:14
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Validation

What does this even mean?
It is a recognition and affirmation that a person’s feelings are worthwhile.
We may want to rush to stifle their tantrum and have peace in the land.
But to do that too quickly invalidates their inner world and sends the dangerous message:
 “I only want you around when you are pleasant and congenial.”

People have said, “Don’t cry” to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is, “Im too uncomfortable when you show your feelings. Don’t cry.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.” (Mr. Fred Rogers)

In the past, a common phrase was: “Big boys don’t cry.”
But this only served to stifle the emotion that children felt. And to teach them to not feel and not trust their feelings.

Big Feelings

As a parent, one of our greatest jobs is to develop emotional intelligence for our children.

Now, more than ever, this is necessary. It is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions. And this is our challenge because kids don’t get this. Some adults don’t get it. Now, more than ever, we need to help them manage the big feelings.

First acknowledge

When our kids first begin to open up to us, it may seem easier to give them a 4 step external fix. To make it all better. Kind of like slapping on a bandage. But this only addresses the outer behavior.
First we need to accept their scary emotions. They are most likely frightened by it.

Can we hear them first? Can we accept them first?
When we don’t accept the big emotion, they end up feeling misunderstood, isolated and lonely. Jesus taught:
It is out of the fullness of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Blessed Assurance

Verbal assurance gives the child that they are loved and accepted.
It also helps them begin to understand the heat of emotions behind the behavior.

Practical

And this verbal assurance is practical and winsome. When we step back from our own emotion and help our child with their emotion, it becomes love in action: love applied in real life.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

How Great the Father’s love for us!

How Great the Father’s love for us! How vast beyond all measure! (Getty Music)
Isn’t this the very message we want to give our children? That they are loved with an everlasting love?

Phrases that help:

I’m sorry this is happening. It is crazy times! Things don’t feel right, do they?

You’re not all by yourself.
I’m here with you. I’m not leaving.

I hear you.
I hear you with my ears. I want to hear your heart. I want to understand more.

It’s okay to feel what you feel.
It may be strong, but it is very real. Sometimes our big feelings are scary. But I’m not leaving, I’m hear to listen.

You don’t have to be tough.
You are not an island. We are interconnected.

Simon and Garfunkel sang:

“I am a rock. I am an island.”
But weren’t they speaking facetiously when they sang:

“And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” (Simon and Garfunkel, I am a Rock.)

Your feelings matter to me. I want to hear more. Help me understand.

Do not misunderstand. Poor behavior must be dealt with; but let us first listen and draw out the child.

Ask Good Questions; Listen Carefully

Have you ever noticed that God and Jesus engaged people through questions? Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Where is your brother?
Who do you say that I am?
Where is your husband?

When things are hard, it is hard to explain to others. So our questions need to be more engaging than ever. A good question can unlock a child’s heart.

This relates to the “Heartbeat Check” at bedtime.
As I’ve done this with my older grand daughter, she has opened her heart: What are you excited about?
What are you worried about?
What was the best part of your day?

It has become the favorite part of our day. And it is very dear to me.

Avoid the generic: How was your day?
Along with asking good questions, we need to be attentive to the answer. Often, it leads to a deeper level of emotional intimacy.
And deeper emotional intimacy builds trust and competency.

Acceptance

To be accepted and understood, warts and all, is a gift of love.
It grants us the ability to be authentic in our relationships, knowing that we will be heard and recognized.
In our tears, and our fears, don’t we we want to make a human connection?
Don’t we all long for somebody to love us?

Tears are running down and down and down your breast And your friends, baby they treat you like a guest
Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love Wouldn’t you love somebody to love You better find somebody to love (Jefferson Airplane, Somebody to Love)

We don’t want to be treated like a guest. Our children want to feel safe emotionally.
We want to be loved and understood and validated.
Truly, only Jesus can love us in this way.
But as parents, grandparents, caregivers, we can show them this kind of love and care.

To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” (Tim Keller)

And this is the type of love and acceptance that will speak into the hearts of our children as we continue through this Pandemic.

Children Anxiety and Corona

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

There is so much sorrow and loss swirling around us during this Pandemic. As adults, I speak with many who are struggling. But what about the children? They haven’t developed the verbal acuity to describe what is happening within their hearts. They let us know in other ways.

Sponges

Children are like sponges. They pick up on the verbal, physical and emotional cues around them. It might be the radio or nightly news that they overhear. It might be our dismay over our bank account. Or very heavy sighs over continued lockdown and social distancing. Certainly they overhear our conversations on the phone. They may see Mom and Dad working from home, or some configuration of that dynamic. Honestly—have we ever really spent that much time together? And as parents, are we handling that well? Little eyes are watching us. What do they see? What do they hear? How do they react?

Reflections

If we are anxious and stressed, expect your children to reflect that back to you. “Children will pick this up and feel it too,” said Denise Daniels, a child development expert and creator of The Moodsters, who recently authored a free workbook to help children cope with COVID-19.

Lack of Routine and School

Remember the Movie: The Kids are Alright? For our children, the world is not right on so many levels.
Children are suddenly thrust into the middle of our adult worlds as we try to work. Daycare is closed. Their schools are shut down and so they lack the input of their teachers and their friends. No more play dates. Even the local playground has been closed off. What used to be normal to them? Is not normal anymore.

Irritability

The mild mannered child you have known may become grumpy and moody. They’re flaring at you for seemingly minor things. But children are not able to recognize and verbalize their feelings of fear and anxiety.
Recently I had a conversation with a Grandmother who asked her tearful grand daughter what was wrong?

“I don’t know! I just don’t feel right!”

And this little girl is absolutely correct.
Things are not right. Her world has been turned upside down and she doesn’t have words to explain the inner turmoil.

Regression

You may see your independent toddler become glued to your hip. Their stress is shown in regression of behavior, and their anxiety is expressed in a physical, tangible way. A clingy child is trying to express their inner fear and turmoil, but lacks the verbal ability to share this with you. You have now become their comfort; for now, this is the security they know and need.
If they have been potty trained, you may see them move backward in maturity. Thumb-sucking may be a comfort, coping mechanism.
Or talking is now exchanged for baby talk. They intuitively understand that as a baby, they are comforted, held, and reassured.
Older children may forgo their own iPads for younger, simpler sibling toys. And older children have been known to reclaim their beloved “blankeys.”

Adjustment and Anger

These times are hard for adults to navigate. Flexibility and adjusting are difficult. How much harder it is for our children! Outward anger is typically a mask for inner, unexpressed emotion. Keep communication going and connect with your child. Connection and validating your child will be covered in another article.

Sleeping or eating patterns have Changed

Children may not be sleeping well. Their inner anxiety is getting the best of them. You may find them crawling into your bed at night. Then the entire household is awake as we try to lead them back into bed.
Perhaps this is the time to sleep in their room next to their bed. Or have them sleep next to you on the floor in your bedroom. A “slumber party” may be the reassurance they need.

Some have complained about the continual grazing their children do all day. The grocery bill is sky high. Children often eat out of boredom and frustration.

Make Connection Foremost

Rachel Macy Stafford, Hands Free Revolution has a special bedtime ritual called the “Heartbeat Check.” Why bedtime? The worries of the day are winding down, and we just may see the heart and soul of the child we love. Each one is unique. Each child has their own concerns. But for every one, checking in with their deepest emotions offers them unconditional love and connection. It offers comfort. It offers refuge.

Luke 18:15-17

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

“At many times throughout their lives, children will feel the world has turned topsy-turvy. It’s not the ever-present smile that will help them feel secure. It’s knowing that love can hold many feelings, including sadness, and that they can count on the people they love to be with them until the world turns right side up again.” Fred Rogers

In this topsy-turvy time, let our chief goal be to connect with our children. To love them unconditionally and assure them that we are there for them.

Marriage and Corona

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

In the Beginning

There may have been a time in your marriage when you would have liked to spend every waking moment with your beloved. In the days of fresh love, rapture enchantment and devotion marked your days. A wedding was followed by a honeymoon that you wanted to last forever. Was there ever anyone so handsome, so responsible, so rugged and strong?Was there anyone so delicate, so beautiful, so radiant, so emotive? And then the honeymoon becomes the marriage. And now we have Corona.

What were we expecting?

The Best of times, the Worst of times The dailyness of days brings out the best in us, but also the worst in us. It is a time to see what is within our hearts. Jesus put it succinctly: “It is out of the fullness of the heart that the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45.

Our hearts are revealed in actions as well as speech. The luster of the honeymoon period is soon replaced by our true selves. Add responsibilities, mortgages, work, and perhaps children, and we soon see that it is what is within us…that comes out of us.

It is not a pretty sight.

The Long Haul As  this quarantine in going on over 30 days, people are becoming a bit more….shall we say, irritable? Short tempered? Grouchy? Moody?

Using a sense of humor helps. Try these on for size:

  • “Can You blink a little more quietly, please?”
  • The next time your wife gets angry, drape a towel over her shoulders, (like a cape) and exclaim: “Now you’re SUPER angry!” Maybe she’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll die.
  • I bet by now a lot of husbands are ready to build that she-shed……

Practical Advice

In this Pandemic, many couples have varying degrees of work, responsibility and child care, to name a few. But chances are:You are together more hours of the day than usual. None of us planned to be with our spouse all of the time.

Or, you may find yourself responsible for much more than before: between childcare and working from home, the work has seemed to triple.

Little annoyances may come to the fore.

We begin to keep a running total, a tally system; who does what? This would be easy to set up in our heart and in our head.

But these are harmful dynamics that need to be  nipped in the bud.

1. Our marriages are a Covenant before God. (Eph 5)

Remember that your spouse is a gift from God.

In the midst of quarantine, the Pandemic is stressful. Corona is our enemy, not our spouse.

2. My own heart is the greater problem. What is it that I want? What will I desire to have above all else?

Our heart is an idol factory. During this demanding season, it is working overtime.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?.  (Jeremiah 17:9)

This is a time for unity within our marriage. No more tallies of chores and jobs. This is the time to be more flexible.

Perhaps he has routinely done most of the childcare. Now may be the time for her to pick up this responsibility. Perhaps we both need to be more creative, more willing, and more eager to help. Would it be possible, on some days, to even do more than your spouse?

3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 

John Gottman did a study on marriages that addressed 4 major problems in marriage. He called them: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

  • Criticism: Verbally attacking your partners personality or character.
  • Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse them.
  • Defensiveness: Viewing yourself as the victim in efforts to ward off a received attack and reverse blame.
  • Stonewalling: Withdrawing from a relationship as a way to avoid conflict in efforts to convey disapproval, distance and separation.

Am I responsible for these behaviors? These are harmful dynamics. Perhaps we can look at the plank that might be in my own eye at this time.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

4. Give Grace Grace has been defined as when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Are we able to hold back a blistering retort? Are we able to give support and kindness, understanding that we are all under much stress, different schedules, and a long haul?

5. Listen with your eyes, your ears, and your heart. Look for clues that your spouse is stressed. Are they short tempered, irritable, or depressed? Move towards your spouse with empathy and kindness. Assume nothing.

6. Validate A key feature of building trust in any relationship is to validate the other person. While “we are all in this together” our individual experiences may be very different. Recognize their experience and emotions and give it credibility.

7. Ask questions. Jesus most often asked questions to understand others. When we listen well, we can respond in an empathetic manner:

  • “Help me understand.”
  • “What can I do to help?”

Obviously, entire books are written on marriage dynamics. We are not able to address all of the issues here. But we need to be aware that there are specific stressors swirling around us and within us.

Ultimately—God is in control

In the midst of uncertainty, lockdowns, and pandemics  we can trust God our Father. Encourage one another!

God is our refuge and strength, Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and he mountains quake with their surging.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11.)

In the midst of all of this, the good, the bad, the ugly: God can use this to change us to be more like Him. 

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of―throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” ―C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

How do we Get Through Quarantine?

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

How do we Get through Quarantine? We’ve examined the what of our current situation.
But what about how we are to live?
There are several key components to get through this in a healthy fashion.

1. Keep a Routine If you are not going to work, avoid the temptation of sleeping in until noon. Get up and get dressed, make breakfast, check your appointments.

2. Keep up your health: Get up and Get Out! Keep up physical exercise. Your gym may be closed, but with warmer temperatures, a walk is refreshing. Also, many gyms are offering free classes online.
Shower and maintain personal hygiene.
Eat healthy foods.

Comfort foods abound. High carbohydrates may satisfy for the moment, but may not be appropriate or best for your metabolism.
Sleep that is restful and suitable will maintain your physical and mental health. In other words— not too much sleep, and not too little sleep. Go to bed at the usual time, and get up on schedule. This is called sleep hygiene.

2. Avoid 24/7 News It is prudent to be informed. But watching the news 24/7 will increase our anxiety and fears. Know enough to make wise choices and be an informed citizen. Avoid speculation and wild theories.

3. Manage Fear and Anxiety How do we manage an onslaught of dealing with a virus? If you follow Facebook you will learn how to make disinfectant. How to clean your groceries upon your return home. How to make masks and sell them. And how to make bread, if you are able to find yeast and flour.
Why do we cater to these methods of control? Because it is a way to control those things that threaten to undo us.
Our hearts are seeking something to cling to, something to worship. Go ahead and make bread and disinfectant. But understand some of the underlying dynamics in our heads and in our hearts.

“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” (Augustine)

4. Understand the Cycle of Grief We have never faced a pandemic like this in our country. There will be changes for all of us. Give grace to others as well as yourself.
This is not the time for judgement.
Every one will be facing this Pandemic with different histories, experiences, and expectations. It has been said: “We’re all in this together.” But that’s not really true. We come from different backgrounds and the application for many has meant change of employment, loss of income, and loss of health. Let’s be gentle with one another. (Ephesians 4:32)

5. Increase community/Avoid Isolation In the time of “Social Distance” we can become isolated from the community.
This is especially pertinent for singles and the elderly.
Fortunately, we live in a time where computers and iPhones can help us bridge that gap. Call your neighbors and check in on them.

Offer to pick up groceries. Be creative in your social contacts.

Zoom with your families, committees, work colleagues, etc.

Facetime or employ Skype to connect. Text loved ones.

And don’t forget a simple old fashioned phone call.
In times of celebration, such as Easter, families have been known to drive 1/2 way to meet. Then a “social distance” dinner was enjoyed by all; desperate times may call for desperate measures.

6. Watch your Self Talk Scripture has much to say about how we “talk to ourselves.” We can consider that we are “stuck at home” or “safe at home.” Our mindset can make a big difference.

Philippians 4: 8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right path for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 27:13
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Elisabeth Elliot: “It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given. One or the other becomes a habit of life.”

7. Cultivate Daily Praise Related to #6, cultivate a daily praise list. There is so much for which we can be thankful. Concentrate on His many gifts and mercies to us.
I have a friend who is posting her daily praise at the end of the day. It blesses her. It blesses us.

8. Fill your Mind with God’s Word

Related to our self-talk, this is a time to consider how to renew our minds.

Phil 4: 4-7. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord through music and song.

9. Serve Others You may have noticed a national sewing project: masks. It seemed like everyone was creating them out of whatever material they could find. It was an outpouring of goodwill and an effort for safety for all. And isn’t this really about serving my neighbor?

Mark 12:31
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”


Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Personally, I cannot sew. But I do cook and bake. So many meals have gone out and especially cookies. There are always cookies.

10. Focus on what You can Control We may not have the ability to manage a Pandemic swirling around us. Or the implications that flow from mandates.
But we can manage our own inner life and attitudes.
And this is all part of good mental health.

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Grief 102

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 102

In a previous post, I explored the different parts of the Grief Cycle and how we process through it. But I’m feeling pretty lousy, and I don’t know why.

Grief affects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is the emotional response to loss. And earlier we discussed just how much loss there is in this Pandemic.

Mourning is the process whereby we work through the loss, regaining a sense of balance and integration in our lives. Mourning is a functional necessity, not a weakness. It is a form of healing. We need to process through our losses. before we can come to acceptance.

The Impact The impact of reality hits. But is this reality? What is reality during a Pandemic? In this stage we are in denial, questioning how this can be happening. It is followed by:

Mild depression  We may have a feeling of being “let down.” We may feel the shock of disbelief. Like a death, this may affect us physically and cognitively. We may feel slight disorientation.

Acute Symptoms This is the most difficult adjustment period.  The impact of the loss hits with acute symptoms of anxiety and depression.

1. Loss of sleep and overeating. As we lay awake at night, our brains are in overdrive.

And overeating? Just consider how many loaves of bread are being made. And cookies. Food becomes our comfort.

2. Sleep changes. We may want to sleep more than usual. Or we may fall asleep and awaken during the night. We may not want to sleep at all. And this affects our ability to reason and make sound judgements.

3. Weeping. We may find ourselves unusually sensitive and weeping. 

4. Fatigue. The fatigue we feel is much more than physical. It is a “bone tired” that doesn’t resolve with sleep. When we wake up in the morning, fatigue greets us like an old friend.

5. Acute mood swings. I may approach the differences in my life with good humor and a light heartedness. But then the impact of changes may crush me down and I fear for the future. I can swing from one axis to another.

6. Decreased ability to concentrate and remember. Many of us may be forgetting what day it is. After all, one day runs into the next, doesn’t it? Without the familiar routine of school, jobs, appointments—we fall into disorganization.

Continued Symptoms As grief and mourning continue, we find ourselves with more symptoms than we’d like:

1. Irritability and complaining. We’d like the imposition on my schedule and lifestyle to stop now. I want to go back to “normal.”

I may recognize that my own situation is not as bad as my neighbor’s. Doing a side glance at how others are suffering does little to relieve my own complaining.

2. Physical and verbal actions out of anger and frustration. We would like to appeal to our better natures, but find ourselves reacting out of anger and frustration. This concern has been noted especially for families where abuse is present. 

3. Tears. We are unable to reason with our emotional state.

4. Physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, diarrhea, etc. This is a valid area. The physical aspects of grief and mourning continue into somatic complaints. 

5. Depression The loss of community brings more isolation. This is especially significant for singles or those who live alone.

This will be examined more in “How do we Get Through Quarantine?”

We may consider that our current affairs leave us with no hope.

And yet we have a Savior who was well acquainted with grief.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”       1 Peter 2:24 NIV

He was a Man of Sorrows and He knows our frame.

Man of Sorrows, what a name For the Son of God who came Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

Loss in a Pandemic

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Loss

If we name it, we can begin to manage it.
But what have we lost in Covid 19?
When we begin to name the ways, we begin to understand the magnitude of this Pandemic and how it is affecting us.

1. Loss of Security

For most of us, a trip to the grocery store has been part of life. I need lemons for a recipe? No problem. I’ll stop on the way home.
But in the past 6 weeks we have gone from being careful, to being quarantined.
Some places require gloves when shopping.

And now, in PA, we are supposed to wear masks.
Note—it has never been entirely “safe” to go to the store. Germs are everywhere. Bacteria and viruses live in a plethora of places.
But before, washing your hands when you got home would do the trick.
Now, many stores are disinfecting the carts before you go in.

2. Loss of “freedom”

Six weeks ago it was expected that I had freedom to go where I wanted. And do what I wanted to do. With every change in this pandemic, new guidelines have been added to manage its’ spread. This is well and good. It is necessary. But change is hard for us. It sets us on edge.

Now I can’t drive to Delaware without having my license plate examined. And I may receive a fine to drive to another state.
A current post on Facebook puts it succinctly:

We Americans are an independent sort and do not want to be told what to do. Perhaps we may listen when we understand it is for the greater good.

3. Loss of Community: “Social Distancing”

Certainly the word for 2020 will be “Social Distancing.” Stay at least 6 feet away from one another.
No playdates.
No hugs between friends.

No Spring Break in Florida.
Funerals? Not happening, except for very few people.
Births? Only Mom and the new baby. Dads are not allowed in the hospital. Babies still insist on their own arrival date and Dad joins in through Zoom.

4. Loss of Celebrations

There has been noted a real loss for the graduating class of 2020.
Especially those Seniors in high school.It is hard enough to say goodbye to life long friends before we begin our college careers. But now, the passage of time cannot be marked by pomp and circumstance.
Rites of passage: Proms, Yearbook signing, Senior night? Lost in the pandemic.
Students and teachers alike mourn the sweet goodbye and sending forth into Middle School. No parties.
Bridal showers must be done—and it IS done, virtually.
Weddings are even held virtually. Where there is a will, there is a way. And love wins.

5. Loss of events

Don’t even begin to list the sports events on a national level. March has come and gone and the only madness we knew was the Pandemic.
Covid-19 put an end to book clubs, except on a virtual level.
An end to Garden Clubs. An end to Mother’s Markets and rummage sales.

And yet—God Reigns.

There are so many losses. When we begin to look at them, there is an understanding of our despondency and lack of energy, our lack of motivation.
And yet.
He knows us.

He holds us in the palm of His hand.
As we go through these trials, we can be assured of His gentle presence.

Psalm 42:11
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 27:13
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

And because music speaks into our hearts:

I have a maker
He formed my heart, Before even time began My life was in his hands He knows my name
He knows my every thought, He sees each tear that falls And hears me when I call  (Paul Baloche, He knows my name.)

What–in the World–is happening?

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

What—in the world—is happening? These are troubled times. We are dealing with it in different ways. As I talk with people, I find a variety of reactions. These are but a few:

What am I supposed to do? Group 1: Many health care professionals go to work. We pray for their continued health. Those who do work face the concern of exposure to the virus personally. They come home and often strip down to nothing in their garage, including their shoes, so that they do not contaminate their loved ones. But there are also other staff at work: Housekeeping, Garbage disposal, EMT, Police, Septa, Grocery employees, Supply trucks. We see that this is just at the tip of the iceberg.

And we are interconnected in so many ways.

This is exhausting on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

Group 2: Some are able to work from home, or at least cobble together some sort of work. This is not the same dynamic.  Consider that day care is closed. Our son and his wife are in this group.She is a health professional, so she is gone at least 6 hrs/day. He stays at home with the baby, trying to work around naptime, diaper changes, and saving Lila from danger as she explores the home. They tag team responsibilities and work, but this makes for 16 hr days. They are exhausted.

Group 3: Those who are not able to work from home? This is a mixed group. It includes those who have lost jobs, been furloughed, retirees, residents in longterm health care and innumerable more categories. My husband and I are in the retired group. We are used to a certain routine, and rhythm of life. This has all changed. For those who worked, there is a “new normal.” But for how long? 

Will there be a “normal” again? When will I go back to work?  How will I pay my bills?  How will I pay my rent? I can’t go to Starbucks for coffee and hang out with my cronies. I can’t go out for breakfast or lunch with my colleagues.

There are so many “I can’t”s.

And as they lay before me, I am so exhausted.

Group 4: The children. Everyone is at home now, and this adds a whole new dimension of responsibility, energy and even chaos. This deserves a post unto itself.

Exhaustion

The similar theme is exhaustion. But why? A common denominator is the loss of expectations, loss of routine, loss of purpose.

It is so exhausting.

These dynamics are all part of grief.

Grief???

Grief creeps up on us in unexpected ways. None of us are immune to it.  Some of us start the day with “Great Expectations” and plan on painting a hallway, planting the garden, or cleaning out a closet. Some of us actually achieve that goal.

But others? We start on the project only to be distracted. We can’t seem to stay focused. And by lunchtime, I’m ready for a nap. There are only so many times one can walk their dog. I can only reheat my lukewarm coffee so many times. Or I’m exhausted when I wake up and crawl through the day.

Join the club. If you have been feeling “off” but had no words for it? You are not alone.

Join us as we explore these things.

In my next article I’ll look more closely at grief and what it does to us physically, emotionally, spiritually. When we can name a problem, we can begin to manage it. Let’s manage it together.

How Should We Then Live?

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

How Should We Then Live?

A Pandemic

We are in the midst of a Pandemic: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
It is not the first that the world has endured.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was first reported in 2012.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus caused a severe outbreak in several regions of the world in 2003.

The 1918 influenza pandemic (H1N1)was the most severe pandemic in recent history.

COVID -19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. Its scope is broad and international in nature.
This invisible threat is very real, and it is very frightening.

Many of us are scared; even those with faith. Questions remain—

What if I am exposed to the virus? How will this affect my family? Where is Christ in all of this?

Theologian Francis A. Schaeffer asked: How Should We Then Live?

How Should We Then Live?

This is the question before us. Our theology is strong, and we trust in Christ as our Savior and Lord. Our functional theology then comes into question. I confess Jesus as my Savior and my Lord, and yet I may function daily on a different belief system.

Our Only Comfort

The Heidelberg Catechism gives us a foundational answer:

Q. 1.What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong— 
body and soul,
in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
—The Heidelberg Catechism

Romans 8:38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Truth

This rings true to our hearts and spirits. This truth comforts us in life and in death.
How do faith and a pandemic intersect to give us a robust life?
As the Pandemic spreads, how do we understand practical questions as well as spiritual ones?

The series of articles that follow will examine these questions.

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