Reflections after one year of COVID-19
By Chaplain Molly Garnett, M.A., BCC
Spiritual care manager
Pardee UNC Health Care
As we reach the one-year mark of the pandemic in the United States, many of us are reflecting on what we’ve experienced. It can be helpful to process and honor the difficulties we’ve faced while also exploring the lessons we’ve learned in this unexpected season.
First, know that whatever you’re feeling right now, your emotions are valid. None of us has ever been through a year-long pandemic that completely changed how we live on a daily basis. We’re all learning how to cope with the reality of our past 12 months.
The stress, fear and anxiety of the last year have taken a toll on our mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s normal to feel discouraged and tired and to question the things you’ve always relied on, whether it’s your faith or the belief that things will all work out.
Many of us have lost our routines and we’re grieving for the way things were and the things we took for granted, like hugging our loved ones, having a cup of coffee with a friend, traveling or going to the grocery store without worry. We may be grieving for milestone events that have been changed or canceled, like weddings, graduations or funerals. We may even be grieving the loss of a loved one.
Grief can hit us in all kinds of ways. It can show up in the body with fatigue, sleep problems, digestive issues and lack of motivation to eat well, exercise or connect with others.
Grief can affect you emotionally too. Anger is part of grief. Some people direct that anger toward other people or institutions. Sometimes it can be addressed to God or a higher power. It may also manifest in sadness, hopelessness or a mental “fog.”
Tips for continuing to cope
I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re not alone, we can’t do this on our own and it may be necessary to seek help. If you’re struggling to cope, find someone to talk to, whether it’s a counselor, your health care provider, a loved one or a clergy member.
You can also use your unique “spiritual toolbox.” Do whatever feeds your spirit. That may be tapping into your faith community online, listening to music, reading or spending time outside. Find the things that are good for you and make sure you do them. This can be hard if you’re discouraged, sluggish or tired, so start with something small that lifts your spirits.
It’s important to be kind to yourself and not beat yourself up for not handling this crisis better. This is new for everybody. None of us has ever been through a year-long pandemic before. Also, be kind to others. We’re all struggling with something and could all use extra compassion.
I also encourage you to find someone to help if you’re able to do so. You may be surprised by how much this lifts your spirit. Volunteering, donating or giving can help you feel like you’re doing something positive and give you a sense of empowerment that you can help others.
Reflecting on the blessings of this season
Finally, it can be helpful to reflect on some of the blessings from this season. While we never want to diminish how difficult this experience has been for our world, there are some positive aspects we can look to for hope.
Perhaps you’ve had a chance to rest and reflect. Maybe you’ve started a new hobby, learned a new language, grew a garden, deepened your faith, read great books, learned to cook or spent more time with your loved ones. Perhaps you’ve learned how to use technology to connect with long-distance family and friends. Maybe you’ve realized what is truly important to you and what doesn’t matter as much anymore.
Hope for the future
I think of a line from an old hymn, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” To me, that’s an encouragement to recognize that throughout history, people have gotten through difficult circumstances. There’s resilience built into our nature. We can overcome and get through this.
You’re not alone
If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or another health concern, reach out to your primary care provider. To find one near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.
Another resource is Hope4NC, which provides 24/7 free, confidential emotional support, community resources and counseling referrals. You can call or text “hope” to 1-855-587-3463.
Chaplain Molly Garnett, M.A., BCC, is the spiritual care manager at Pardee UNC Health Care.