It—the deaths, other losses, and griefs of the pandemic, racial polarization, economic devastation, political division, and “Christian” nationalism—has been and is hard, really hard. We probably won’t know how difficult things have been until later, when we can let ourselves feel more deeply.

Over these months, many of us have had our illusions of relative independence and invulnerability shattered. We know more now about how dependent we are on first-responders, frontline and essential workers, teachers, farmers, suppliers, manufacturers, shippers, retailers, and delivery-persons who are mostly nameless to us.

Thousands have had to have assistance to take their next breaths or their next steps. We see that doctors, nurses, and other medical caregivers are more than “providers”; they are heroes who stayed with the sick despite threats to their own health. Without them—and without vaccine researchers and developers—the tragedies we’ve endured would be exponentially multiplied.

Isolation and loneliness, already pervasive before the pandemic, have become factors in severe emotional distress. We’ve remembered what we’re too prone to forget: we can’t and we weren’t meant to flourish without one another’s presence and help.  

We’re tired in every way: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We’re weary inwardly and outwardly. We feel the limits of our resilience and the exhaustibility of our reserves.

I suppose there are people who actually did use this time to read the works of Shakespeare, learned French, took YouTube guitar lessons, lost weight, finished the novel they’d always meant to write, or became peaceful practitioners of mindfulness. Certainly, there were people who remodeled their homes or moved out of urban centers and into less-crowded and lower-intensity locations.

More people, though, doom-scrolled, gained the COVID-19 pounds (or more) on sourdough bread and other comfort foods, got zoomed into numbness, escaped into the worlds conjured by Netflix, Prime, and Masterpiece, and wore “real” pants only a couple of times. No judgment here, by the way. I spent more evenings than I will ever admit on the couch, remote in hand. 

As I said, it has been—is—hard. So, if people around you are more short-tempered, irritable, preoccupied, on-edge, forgetful, critical, or controlling than they usually are, it’s likely that their exaggerated behaviors are fueled by the same kinds of grief, anxiety, uncertainty, and loneliness you’ve experienced.  And, by the way, it could be that they’re wondering what’s gotten into you.

You might need help from a friend or a therapist or a spiritual guide. We all do from time to time. That is, we all need it, but we don’t always admit it and seek it.

It’s alright to cry and, when you can, also to laugh.

We all long for mercy, yearn for grace, and hunger for love. Some of us hide that truth, even from ourselves. Never mind the hiding: it’s still true. The good, saving, and sustaining news is that these are gifts we can extend to one another and expect to receive from God.