The year that changed everything

The other day, my four year old was coloring a picture, and then he turned to me, asking, “Mama? How do you spell ‘Virus, go away!’?'” And my heart broke in two.

This past weekend, his grandparents visited briefly–wearing masks, of course, as we all do now. My son, realizing he couldn’t find his, looked at me, panicking, and held a big breath while covering his mouth with his arm. And my heart broke once more.

My daughter lived through the Ebola epidemic that ravaged West Africa from 2014-2016. She’s a pro at washing her hands constantly and avoiding physical contact. She’s barely been out of the house except for school in these past ten months and has lost touch with the friends she made when she first came home. And my heart breaks again.

On January 20th of last year, the first recorded U.S. case of the coronavirus was reported, and since then, it’s been a year of collective heartbreak for oh-so-many of us. It’s hard to remember what life was like before COVID became the main topic of conversation, when children didn’t have to cover their mouths around family members and could go to their friends’ houses to play, when mothers didn’t grieve over their kids’ lost childhoods.

It’s been a year of our babies having to grow up too fast.
A year of canceled plans,
of staying inside,
of having our normal disrupted
and turned on its head.

A year of face masks as the new fashion accessory
and toilet paper shortages,
temperature checks,
hand sanitizer
and soap.

It’s been a year of students being taken out of school
and parents having to juggle
without childcare
while also becoming their children’s new teacher–
and that’s if they even kept their job
because businesses closed
and people went hungry
and in one of the richest nations in the world,
citizens went without.

It’s been a year of death,
the numbers rising steadily,
a jaw-dropping incline.
It’s been a year of loss,
the pain of a grandparent or uncle or sibling no more.

Sometimes I think we need to name our losses, to look them in the eyes and acknowledge how they’ve changed us. This was a year that changed everything, and though resilience is a real thing, perhaps we need to stop expecting ourselves and others to bounce back so quickly from the layers and layers of heartbreaking events. We are still living through this pandemic. We recently saw the highest death count to date, and that wasn’t even in the top three news stories of that day.

Maybe we’re not as okay as we’re pretending to be.
Maybe we should stop expecting things to go on as normal.
Maybe it’s alright to be honest and acknowledge the trauma that comes with such (to borrow 2020’s catchphrase) “unprecedented events.”
Maybe it’s not wrong to admit our heartbreak.

Today, I am holding space in my heart and in my prayers for all of us who grieve, all of us with heavy hearts, all of us who are counting the things that this pandemic has taken from us. As is true in every area of life, we cannot heal from what we won’t name, so moving forward in COVID-times means we’re going to have to get honest about the ways this past year has impacted us. We can’t be whole again until we face what’s broken us, and I’m not just talking about coronavirus.

This evening, January 12th, 2021 at 7pm EST, I will be holding a prayer vigil to face the darkness. If you are in need of prayer, or if you simply want to release something that has been weighing you down, I invite you to contact me, leave a comment, shoot me an email or a text. It would be an honor to pray for you.

Fighting for your wholeness, friends. Always.


  • Donna Neevel

    Beautiful words, indeed. Thank you, Elena. We just got to meet our new granddaughter who was born in Germany in February. She, our daughter and son in law are traveling back to Dresden tonight, so please pray for their travel and to stay healthy (they have to quarantine upon returning.) I’ll be praying for you and your family tonight. Donna and Harold are friends of ours from Hope, Donna and I were roommates the last half of freshman year.

    Donna Neevel

    • Elena Delhagen

      It will be an honor to pray for your new grandbaby, your daughter, and your son in law. So wonderful to connect with you in this little pocket of the internet. Blessings to you and yours!

  • Anita Manuele

    Please pray for all of us who have not been able to grieve in community due to COVID. There have been so many losses in our church family over the last 12 months due to aging, cancer, and other diseases. When we come together again some day, we will be forever changed without the gift of being able to mark each loss as a community along the way. Thank you, Elena.

    • Elena Delhagen


      You and your family have been weighing so heavily on my heart. As humans, we need that closure, the ability to grieve our lost loved ones in ways that our meaningful to us. COVID has stolen that from you all, and I hate it. On top of that, the inability to mark our losses in our congregations hurts even more. I will be lifting these aches up in prayer tonight. Lots of love to you.

  • Bernadette Cataline

    Thank you, Elena! I woke up thinking we need a prayer vigil. You have answered my prayer. I will be praying with you tonight. Pease and joy, Bernadette

    • Elena Delhagen

      It makes my heart happy to hear you will be praying with me tonight. Peace and grace to you this day!