Time to Mourn
For the past couple of weeks I've been joking (if anything is a joke anymore) that as a near-lifelong Disaster Bisexual, I'm highly practiced at riding tumultuous waves. I'm familiar with the contours of disappointment, of loss, and of heartbreak. I know I am resilient, like most LGBTQ+ folks (we have to be). I know there will be an other side, and that even though immense trauma like what we are experiencing right now will leave us forever changed, one day things will feel okay again. I also know that before resilience, we must have a significant period of mourning.
It's been less than a month since our world changed. Without ceremony of any kind, we have had to abandon plans, expectations, and narratives, and immediately reorient ourselves to a world in which we cannot touch one another without fear of dying or killing, and everything we have worked toward is canceled or postponed indefinitely. Many have lost homes and jobs. Many are sick or close to someone who is. Many have already died. More will.
Yet the tone and content of communication I have received from many organizations, publications, and friends on social media is positive, self-congratulatory even, and focused on continued labor and production in mimicry of normalcy. We are told to be grateful for this resilience and creativity. But I have seen less space for collective shock and grief.
I recognize the monumental amount of work that must have gone into shifting communities online overnight. I'm awestruck, in all honesty. I appreciate the effort to preserve community throughout this pandemic, and am hopeful that these practices will help improve the lives and access of disabled people beyond the breadth of this crisis. I am grateful for my continued connection to friends, family, and peers. This connectedness has helped me and others find the people who need help and get that help to them. It has also helped us to lament and navigate this trauma together.
This, to me, is where the majority of my energy should go right now. Checking in with my friends and family. Getting people who need the things that they need. Sitting in the quiet uncertainty together and wondering what in G!d's name we are supposed to do now. Not optimizing productivity in another Zoom meeting.
To expect resilience from profound loss before or without grief is cruel. We are still in the impact phase of this event -- peak infection times are not expected to arrive in the US for another week or more. Members of our community and their families are already ill. Some could become seriously ill. Let us sit with our fear. Let us worry for our loved ones. Let us mourn the world we have already lost. If we as people of faith cannot recognize the time to grieve and to cry, what are we doing? If we rush toward production, toward optimization, toward labor-as-usual, toward a voice that tries to mimic normalcy in a time of intense crisis, what are we?
This is a major crisis, but it is by no means unprecedented. There have been plagues and worse throughout human history. The optimization-worshiping voice of American marketing has convinced many of us that plagues were legends or long-gone conquests of science. In some ways, this reveals the precariousness that has always been our true position, the one that lurked below that modern marketing voice. If we cling to that voice now, it will ring hollower than ever.
True, there was never a normal that is worth returning to. Let us at least share in that realization now together. There are gifts in apocalypse, but they are not tied to immediate and shallow optimization. They come from the unveiling, from the quiet that arises when the false gods of a culture have been revealed.
Please mourn with me. Let us tear our clothes and gnash our teeth. We are and will be resilient. I believe that. But we must be allowed to get there through the mire of anger and grief.