‘Their Presence Was Enough’: How We Grieved in Lockdown

Rainesford Stauffer
7 min readMar 12, 2021
Green trees blurred out by rain falling on the window. Source here.

Just a month after Kristin Torres, 32, found a new church to attend in Boston, her grandmother, Carmen, died suddenly. Carmen was a devout Catholic herself and in many ways, Torres considered her her best friend. Torres told her new friends at St. Peter’s she would see them in two weeks, after she got back from the funeral. Then, the pandemic hit, and for six months, Torres stayed in her hometown in California.”

But even from across the country, her church group became a lifeline: Many of her church friends were older, in their 60s and 70s, and generous with wisdom on everything from career issues to grief, loneliness, and insecurity. “They understood when I didn’t show up to meetings because I just didn’t have it in me. They never pushed me to be anything or give anything,” Torres said. The community offered a sense of rhythm in a year that otherwise seemed absent of one. “I’m learning how important it is to have a regular community and a commitment — something and someone to be accountable to and to be a friend to,” said Torres.

Capturing grief throughout the past year seems akin to catching a sunset and trying to hold it in your hands: Nothing is enough to grab hold of the lights going out, to understand what’s unfolding. But people I spoke to described religious services via Zoom, meditation, and practices they consider spiritual as creating space for grief and processing, while others named book clubs or organizing work. Connecting with people about where they bring grief to is one way of talking about it — something that feels necessary to acknowledging that so many of us are grieving.

‘Peer Communities’ For Grief

“In the midst of this crisis, our federal government largely chose denial,” said Chloe Zelkha, Co-Founder of the COVID Grief Network. “They cast some of us — the elderly, disabled folks, immigrants, and people of color — as disposable, and gaslit the grieving. One of the impacts of that choice is the mass death we’ve seen this year, and the countless preventable losses that folks suffered.”

Over 500,000 people in the United States have died of coronavirus. People keep going to work because, without a paid shutdown, what choice is there? People have longed for their communities; people have died…

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Rainesford Stauffer

Author of An Ordinary Age, out 5/4/2021. Freelance writer. Kentuckian.