Well, it’s here. The one-year anniversary of the pandemic that left us stunned for weeks, reeling for months, and tired as we trudge ahead. I have seen a lot of articles about this anniversary and the trauma that will accompany this time for many people. And, I want to affirm that this heavy word “trauma” is 110% a valid and accurate way to describe how some will experience it. However, in the midst of this trauma, a light is also beginning to emerge. There are redemptive angles to observe. And so, we will do that here today. The list below includes ways to cope, honor the hard stuff, and find the co-existing beauty.
Coping, Honoring, & Seeking Beauty in the Pandemic
If It’s Too Much, Don’t Look at It: The same rules apply one year into this as when it started. The news, your social media feed, even your relationships may be full of pictures, conversation, and reminders of how wild this was when it started. You have the choice to actively re-absorb all those memories, or don’t. You can’t keep everything out (and probably shouldn’t) but you can definitely set boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed. No need to deep dive into a pool when you don’t want to go swimming. Just stay on the edge.
This is the Anniversary: One of the hardest things about trauma is that our memories can feel just as intense as if the situation were happening again, right now. This is literally a biological function of the brain’s response to trauma. An important part of getting through difficult memories is reminding yourself how far you have come, what you have survived, and that we are much safer and better informed than we were when this all started. Trauma brain doesn’t always recognize the truth, so we have to remind it.
Anniversaries Can Improve: Quick story. I dreaded my daughter’s birthday for the first four years. I know, birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, but for me, all it did was remind me of when she was born and how we almost lost her. But, you know what? Every year the images of her in the PICU came less often, the “what ifs” became less loud, and the year she turned five I woke up the next morning and thought, “Huh. I didn’t think about the hospital at all.” While we are never without our difficult memories, our brains can (and do!) get better from really hard situations. While this anniversary may be hard, it will hopefully be easier in years to come.
Be Cool with Your Narrative: As we muddle through this anniversary, some people will be sad, angry, re-experiencing emotions from the beginning, and grieving. And, there are going to be people who are joyful because relief is coming, they are hugging their grandchildren for the first time, or grateful because they made it. A great many of us will be living with a la carte emotions from the entire list. So, which way is best? The way you need. You gotta’ do you and other folks gotta’ do them. Let’s love each other wherever we are.
Celebrate: You, dear reader, have made it one year into a global pandemic. We didn’t have any idea what that meant when we started, but we sure know now. But, even more than what we’ve learned about pandemics, we’ve learned some incredible lessons about people. People are strong, people are resilient, and people show up for one another. Even as you grieve the incredible losses of this experience, I want you to see that strength. I want you to see how you kept going and honor those who have helped carry you through. I want you to see how, even in the dark, you grew. This pandemic took a lot from us, but it has also produced a great deal of perseverance, character and hope. Now that is something to celebrate.
So, here we are. Exactly one year ago today my children came home from school with no plan for return. Exactly one year ago today we wondered when we would see each other again. And, exactly one year ago I wrote this line, “My fellow humanity, I have no idea what is ahead. But I know I trust you.” That was a good decision. We have done well. Hope to hug you soon.