grief & global pandemics & extenuating circumstances

If we were together in real life right now the first thing I’d want to do is give you a hug. In less than a week, hugs have become a sparse commodity as we’ve entered into what feels like an alternate reality–but is very, very real.  4 ½ months into grieving the loss of our Jared, now it’s a global f’ing pandemic? You’ve got to be kidding me! We were in Costa Rica with two of our young adult kids on Spring Break last week—remotely beginning some initial planning with The Refuge team on some possibilities of Coronavirus protocol–when the news hit that everything was being cancelled. In the matter of 12 hours, the dominoes kept falling, and we were sitting in the airport on our way home, a little shell shocked, thinking, “Is this really happening? Now? OMG, we’re not sure our souls can handle another trauma.” 

Yes, it’s really happening.

And yes, our souls are in the middle of another trauma–a completely different one but an omg-this-can’t-be-real-and-it’s-all-too-much for sure. 

Grief + a global pandemic is pretty rough.

The realities of leading a faith community during these wild times, caring for the most vulnerable (which are many in our network), navigating two of our kids now home from college/grad school and a dental school graduation for my daughter now in jeopardy (after 8 years of working toward…), community organizing with our government, non-profit, and multi-faith partners, Practicing just releasing,  and so many ins and outs of traveling these unchartered waters are setting in–and it’s been less than a week.

Countless ZOOM and conference calls and Voxers and emails and re-arranging and checking in and organizing and developing Refuge safety protocols this past week has caused something to happen that is so scary for people who are grieving—forgetting for a little while. It’s the least I’ve thought about Jared in almost 5 months, and I started to have that panicky feeling like maybe now all of this is going to overtake us and consume our grief. But then it just takes a little gap, a few open minutes, a glance at his picture, a longing for his voice, a text, to be able to check in on him right now like we are our other kids far from us, and the feelings are all still just as present—even more—and I take a breath and remember that now, we’re just going to have add this crazy part to our paradoxical story, too.

Yeah, its.just.too.much. 

Too much paradox.

Too much real life. 

Too many extenuating circumstances

But this I know—right now, we all have extenuating circumstances. We all have all kinds of wild and hard and unique things that make this Coronavirus reality extra painful. 

We all have a different story on why this feels extra hard. 

Grief we’ve already been tangled up in, parents we’re worried about, kids who are immune-compromised, chronic illnesses, in between jobs, kids who are graduating, trips that were planned, divorces, living alone, mental health issues that feel overwhelming on a good day, financial realities, a fragile faith, exhaustion from four years of political division and social media onslaught, our loved ones on the front line caring for people in hospitals & shelters & grocery stories & hard places, people in our lives who are so at risk right now and we don’t know what to do about it. 

We all have extenuating circumstances. 

Today, I stand in solidarity with you as we all feel such a mix of so many feelings and aren’t quite sure what to do with any of it yet because it’s just begun.  

And for those of us who are already in the thick of fresh grief, I just wanted to acknowledge today— My heart extra hurts for us right now because we won’t be able to pause our grief and pick it up later. We’re just going to have to muddle through all of this the way we’ve already been doing it–one breath at a time, one day at a time. We’re going to have to take extra good care of our fragile souls and be so careful about listening to our bodies, our souls, and do whatever we can to make sure we keep our metaphorical oxygen masks on (and maybe these real ones, too). 

This morning I am weighed down by the magnitude of what is happening right now and all of our extenuating circumstances.

However, I can’t help but be extra worried about the folks with a much longer than average list of extenuating circumstances that make crises like these far worse—the under-resourced, the unhoused, the uninsured, the undocumented, the living-in-unsafe-homes, the un-prepared not because of lack of willingness but because there isn’t money to stock up on things that the resourced have cleared off the shelves, the elderly with no safety net, the ones already barely making it, the most vulnerable. 

There’s never been a more needed time to Love Our Neighbor. 

And there’s never been a more needed time to recognize we’ve all got extenuating circumstances, we’re all grieving, we’re all reeling, we’re all disoriented, we’re all in need of some tenderness and care.  

May we share what we can, give what we can, rest when we can, do what we can, pray if we can, grieve how we can. 

One breath at a time

One day at a time.

And now, maybe one virtual hug at a time.

My heart is with you as we travel through our grief and a global pandemic and extenuating circumstances together. 

Love from Colorado, Kathy 

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Kathy, you are wise and loving beyond words. In the midst of your deep grief and our global trauma, you choose to love. In the midst of your deep waters, you once again have touched my life. Bev and I both would love to meet you and your family face to face someday. But in the meantime, you are our neighbour.

  • Thank you so much. My mom is born in Costa Rica. She lived in USA for many years. My husband and I took care of mom in the USA after a stroke for years. When she became too ill, and assisted livings weren’t feasible I found a wonderful nursing home in USA. She is dying now due to poor health over years. I can’t say goodbye due to pandemic. I am sad beyond belief. I don’t want her to be in pain. I just wanted to hold her hand once more, as I am a US citizen Costa Rica forbids me to enter.


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