Recent times and events have consumed all of us with the worldwide pandemic of COVID 19. We are given more information than we could have ever imagined and some of it is not accurate or influenced by self-driven interests. The world is in crisis. COVID 19 is not traumatizing us. It is however, calling us to a greater awareness of ourselves in relation to the world around us. Providing us with an opportunity to identify what is within our power and what is not. We each have things we have control over that will greatly impact and diminish the likelihood of becoming infected. We have choices.
One choice is how we use language to describe our experiences. Some have used the language of grief. That does not however describe the experience for me. Some people have and likely will lose loved ones to this virus…..those individuals and relationships will need to be grieved. For the rest of us, this virus leaves a sense of loss. The world we had come to know has changed. Some of you can remember how following 9/11, things changed. One example is the process of going to the airport and boarding a plane. This virus has generated loss…….a loss of what a “normal” day is, economic loss, the loss of face to face contact. We are experiencing this loss collectively and yet our “go to” ways of addressing loss are not immediately available to us.
In addition to the immediate losses, we sit in a time of anticipated loss. “Will I get sick”, “will I go back to work”, what about my child’s bar or bat mitzvah? This type of anticipated loss is confusing because much of the loss is of the “yet to be” variety. Will I, what if, those sorts of things.
In all loss, there is a process, not a straight-line process, but a process none the less. Initially many of us were/are in denial. It may have sound like this……. I won’t get sick; it’s not that bad etc. Then there is the anger. This may come from many different fronts both internal and external. Maybe you have children saying things like, you just don’t want me to see my friends….I know you never liked them anyway. We might be angry at being stuck at home, with people that we normally have limited, not unlimited time with. Then there is the sadness. Sadness that perhaps as others become ill, you will not be able to care for and support in the ways you would like, an anticipated high school or college graduation that won’t be happening in the manner dreamed. Then you engage in negotiating. Yes, even the best of us will begin to negotiate with a microbe. It will sound like this……I’ve been home for two weeks now so I am not going to get it…..the numbers are going down so it is okay to go outside now……and then there is acceptance. We each individually and collectively will need to decide that this is real, it is serious and we will need to make decisions about how we want to move forward.
All of that said, back to the language matters idea. Language is important. We should think about what we say and how we say it, inside our four walls as well as on the countless phone calls and teleconferences. We will need to be resourceful, kind and compassionate with ourselves and each other as we move through this worldwide pandemic. Let us each be reminded that the directive is for physical distancing, not emotional distancing. Be active and make yourself stay engaged with others through all means safe and possible. Encourage each other, listen to fears and sadness. Hold out to each other the concept of loss. In the words of Fred Rogers “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” Let us practice what our neighbor says.
Cindy Snyder, Clinical Director, 10.27 Healing Partnership, JCC