My Sister’s Sudden Death Prepared Me for COVID-19’s Slow Grief

As much as we might want to, none of us can outsource the burden of bereavement.

On May 4, I woke up early and began preparing for the busy day ahead. I made my bed, brewed a strong cup of coffee, and cracked eggs in a pan to fry for my children’s breakfast. I went to my closet and picked out a black outfit to wear for the day—an annual ritual on the four-year anniversary of the death of someone I loved very much: my sister, Rachel Held Evans.

Wearing black as an expression of mourning is a tradition that has largely been lost in modern-day America, but it’s a simple act that has helped me name and honor my sorrow these last four years.

Four years. Some may say that my loss is in the past, that four years is an adequate amount of time to move on, to find closure. But those who have experienced the death of someone they deeply loved know that grief is not something from which you graduate.

You don’t ever lay down the burden of bereavement. Rather, you develop the muscles to carry it for the rest of your life. Grief changes you. It is like a hurricane that forever alters your mental, emotional, and spiritual landscape. It can take a lifetime to find your bearings again.

We live in a world that is collectively attempting to find its bearings. On May 5, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, signaling what many may say is an end to the pandemic. But for most of us, the outbreak will never really be in the past—we will carry the imprint of its “unprecedented times” forever. COVID-19 is a disease that is, in so many ways, chronic.

As we move forward in this lingering aftermath, it is important to remember that we all experienced this pandemic differently. Some lost their livelihoods and financial …

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