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As we emerge from pandemic, we should share the pain, says Bishop Martin Seeley

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During the past week I have been in conversations with people wanting to arrange physical, face-to-face meetings.

We have been able to meet, socially distanced, in churches for a long time now, but these are meetings of friends, outside at first but hopefully before too long, indoors too.

And my family have been tentatively thinking about holidays, including my wife working out how and when we can visit her family again in Germany.

Bishop Martin Seeley
Bishop Martin Seeley

All of this contributes to the growing sense that we may be emerging from the worst of the pandemic, though we know we will be living with it in some way or other for a long time yet.

And we know we will be praying for and finding ways to support people around the world who are in the midst of a worsening situation rather than an improving one. We think and pray particularly for the people of India.

But with that growing sense that we may be emerging from the longest period of social restriction any of us has ever known, there is a danger.

The danger is that we try to forget what has happened to us.

There are signs already that people may be trying to do that, to somehow shake the last fifteen months off as a bad dream.

But anyone who has personally experienced profound loss during this time will know how impossible, and how wrong that would be.

And just as we need to continue to engage with our personal grief from the death of a loved one, or the grief from whole host of losses that many have suffered through their business, job, opportunities and plans, so we need to continue to engage with our collective grief at what we have suffered together.

This is not to wallow in it. But it is to recognise the profound trauma we are experiencing and the need not to bury it but to work with it.

This will take time, and it will take the rituals and markers that will enable us to move through the grief and loss.

I was pleased to see the plans for a memorial to be built inside St Paul’s Cathedral in London to commemorate those who have died of Covid-19.

I am keen that we consider an appropriate response here in Suffolk, as a county and as individual communities.

But this is not just about memorials, but about events that help us process what has happened, be those church services, community gatherings, or family events.

Grief is eased when it is acknowledged and expressed.

That is never total, of course, and we would not want to be completely beyond a feeling of loss from such a traumatic experience. Memory is important.

And so is recognising what we have been through, sharing the pain, and expressing our commitment together to support and care for one another moving forward.

As we make plans to meet up, let this be part of them.

- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic

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