Grieving in public when you can't gather

#NamingtheLost is digital space to honor beloveds who've died from COVID-19

Monday was Day 65 at home for me.

More than two months inside, leaving the yard only for food or to walk the world’s cutest Jack Russell down the street, or to crouch in the dry reservoir and rec area where folks used to canoe.

There’s a little stream running through the reservoir now. There were tadpoles in it last time I looked, in April.

There are no people on the banks. No one playing in the parking lot.

There’s also no obvious token of plague.

The rest of nature doesn’t seem to know how much things have changed for us: it’s quiet and beautiful. But I know how much has changed. I feel it.

When I’m waking up at 4 a.m., and the furthest I’m commuting in the morning is down the stairs or to the couch, and I’m telling my partner that no matter what the governor says, we shouldn’t reopen the house and we shouldn’t have a July 4 party here, I feel every bit of how much has changed.

I’d hoped that we’d take a few weeks of firm mass action and that would be that. I now think that many of the shifts we’re seeing in work and daily living will need to be long term changes.

A few weeks ago I interviewed with an interfaith radio show in D.C. about an awareness campaign at work we’ve called #FaithfulDistance.

It’s a values pledge that assumes deep faith and public health can be friends, that honoring God can look like keeping church doors closed, and that—most of all, meaningful connection can be location-independent.

Through *gestures vaguely* all of this, we can be creative about how we

  • reinvigorate our sense of connection to our neighbors

  • get food and medicines to those who can’t go out or shouldn’t

  • clean up and mask up when we have to share space with others

  • check in on those who are isolated or bereaved

  • learn new things, entertain ourselves, and decompress

  • remind ourselves of what power and influence we do still have

But it’s not all strategy and risk assessment. There’s some pastoral work to do too; some heart work, some soul work.

#NamingTheLost is part of that.

From May 20-21, I’ll be holding space with movement and spirit-rooted friends around the US to remember loved ones, friends, neighbors, strangers—anyone who’s died from the novel coronavirus this year.

I don’t want to harp on all the things leaders have failed to do.

I don’t even want to explain all the reasons your state probably shouldn’t be reopening again already—if you’re in a state that ever closed.

I will say what those who’ve been wondering about collective grief have been saying:

Life is precious.

Everyone who’s died so far had a name and a story.

We can’t make real collective progress without real collective witness.

And so for 24 hours this week, from Wednesday afternoon (May 20) to Thursday afternoon (May 21), a lot of people are going to gather online and read aloud a lot of names, as many names of those who’ve died as we can.

I’m going to read Wednesday evening after work.

I hope it helps everyone who joins us live. I know it won’t be the last moment of public grieving we’ll need to have.

Come through if you can: RSVP or add a name to the roll if you have one.

If you don’t have names to add yourself, share it with others who might. Light a candle for all of them, and send them love.

More soon,
Keisha