Mourning the Little Things



Joseph Campbell once said, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

And if ever a time required us to change plans, that time is now.

It is Friday, April 17, and bad news about the pandemic continues to roll in. We sit in our homes, staring at uncertain futures. There are glimmers of hope but also unrest, fear, and frustration. If we don’t yet know someone who died, we are afraid we will. If we haven’t felt a financial pinch or downright pain, we dread it is to come.

But at this point, almost all of us have experienced smaller losses. An anniversary celebrated not at a restaurant, but at our own candle-lit dining table, with a dinner we cooked ourselves. Plays not attended as stages and seats lay silent and empty. School dances canceled as gymnasiums echo with an unnatural hush. Dreams of senior year rites-of-passage such as prom and graduation crumble like ash. Weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, quinceañeras, sweet 16 parties, 21st birthday parties are pushed into an unknown future or celebrated on video chats.

Most adults know that in the grand scheme of things, life is far more important than these moments, but yet . . . these moments are the bread and breadth of life. We see our children sad because the momentous events that loom so large in their young lives have evaporated. And we hurt for them. We feel sad at our own postponed or canceled events. And perhaps we feel guilty because that sadness shrinks in comparison to the story of a woman who face-timed her husband as he lay dying alone in a hospital, or that of the daughter who left a video for her parents. How can we even compare our small losses with those monumental ones?

The answer is . . . you don’t compare. The loss of a planned birthday party may be small in contrast, but it is still a casualty of the pandemic. We planned that simple vacation, looking forward to that week of relaxation and new experiences. We ushered our child grade through grade and waited with anticipation on the crowning scholastic glory of senior year. We looked forward to that internship, that special outing with friends, that reunion. We were on the verge of a promotion, a winning track season, of so much. And it slipped from our grasp, like fog.

Those losses are real.

They are life turned inside out. Life upended. Life redirected.

And it’s ok to not like it. To be sad. To be angry.

Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Allow yourself to mourn the little things, to miss the things that should have been. Go through the grieving process: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, and eventually, you will make your way to the last stage: acceptance. Accept that the future is uncertain. Accept that one day, your plans—perhaps renovated, perhaps completely new—can start rolling again. Meanwhile, do the only thing we can really do right now: live in the moment. Look around. What in your life right now makes you happy? What small thing sparks a little flame of joy? Perhaps your anniversary dinner turned into a poignant one you will never forget. Perhaps you are getting more rest. Perhaps you are treasuring time with your family more than ever before. Perhaps you’re learning to cook new dishes. Perhaps you’re really sick of cooking and truly appreciate restaurants now. Perhaps there are things you are looking forward to doing again that fill you with the anticipation of Christmas Eve. Perhaps it is just that moment when the sun comes out after a day of rain, and for a moment, the world sparkles, fresh and washed and new.

Perhaps that is enough right now.

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