Science fiction had never been my thing, not since I watched a movie about Flash Gordon when I was 10. So I hardly know what to write.
There’s a tremendous societal and personal impact and many dimensions to the COVID-19 crisis and it has unfolded like a science fiction story, a period movie or biblical passage about a plague. “Surrealistic” is a world most often used. I’ve experienced grief and terror, engaged in the social science of it, worked with anxiety and counselled bereaved people. While in isolation, I’ve talked to umpteen people. It’s all I can do.
This catastrophe includes a profound universal fear, disappointment and what I interpret as multiple losses. But in the middle of it all is loneliness, loss of routine and stability, trying to protect and help children develop resilience, unique challenges of personal circumstances, the unexpected and unpredictable, and, finally, the profound confrontation of the unknown and uncertainty.
I experienced a sense of loss of control when I realized I wouldn’t be moving into assisted living as planned in April and that my pension plan might crash. As seniors accustomed to grief primarily defined as the loss of a beloved person, we don’t always recognize grief when it visits us on and off through our life span. As we age, we suffer multiple losses: our fitness, health and mental capability, relationships, homes and belongings, hopes, dreams and expectations we don’t have time to finish and even belongings such as a ring down the kitchen sink or a pair of leggings with buttons down the side.
I feel the sadness of loss, but eventually move on to life that includes looking for the silver lining in loss and adversity — if given lemons, then make lemonade.
There are some horrible stories and challenging losses in living. But I’m dumbfounded by this one — a billboard advertising how incredibly connected the human and more-than-human world are to each other. I’ve been in strict isolation for 40 days, nursing three chronic diseases, including diabetes, and can’t take chances. But as a person who has been in human service my whole life, I have never felt so helpless.
All I can offer is compassion and willingness to listen to stories with heavy emotional content without judgment. All I can offer is strict adherence to public health advisories while witnessing the pain and suffering of the deaths of my own generation, despite loneliness and the logistics of getting my nutrition and health care needs met, despite the loss of hugs and face-to-face interaction with others, despite postponement of medical tests vital to a future quality of life and despite the multiple challenging emotions of a whole globe interdependent on each other.
Go ahead and complain and whine, go ahead and express your sadness and fear, but at the same time, figure out what you can gift to the world, find and be a listening friend, teach children resilience and resourcefulness and use the time to reflect what might be the silver lining.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, without luggage, ready to manage another world. And ready to fight for it.”