In a crisis, we all respond differently and our responses will change over time. There is no right or wrong response to the crazy year that is 2020, no one best or “right way.” How we are coping is as diverse as our communities.
Still, there are things we can do to help us not only get through this, but possibly to emerge wiser, stronger, and more connected. For our children, this pandemic and its aftermath may form lifetime patterns for what it means to be resilient. What behaviors and choices can we model for them to demonstrate ways to live with confusion, risk and fear in a world where nothing seems certain?
An incredibly powerful first step is to recognize and name our feelings. Putting words to the chaotic turmoil inside our minds and bodies will help us move beyond being trapped by our emotions, and give us a sense of control. Most of us have learned by now that bottling up feelings or “keeping a lid on it” rarely works over the long haul. Feelings will have their way.
Understand the normal emotional responses to a crisis.
All of these feelings are common responses, and they may play out differently for each of us:
- Fear: Is my family safe? Will we be okay?
- Anger: Why didn’t they prepare us for this? Why isn’t our country better prepared? People just don’t understand!
- Confusion and Frustration: I have no idea how I’m supposed to juggle all of this! What should I do right now?
- Guilt and Self-Blame: I’m not comfortable with digital technology and I feel guilty that I can’t help my kids keep up with school work. I’m not being the kind of parent I’d like to be right now. I should have had a better plan.
- Shame and Humiliation: I see others online who are thriving, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I am not. I feel humiliated because I’m not sure how much longer I can financially support my family under these circumstances. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m weary.
- Sorrow and Grief: I miss my routine, my neighborhood, and my community. It’s just not the same here.
- Loneliness: I feel left out. Everyone is wrapped up in their own problems. No one cares about us.
- Hopelessness: I don’t feel like I can control my mind. I can’t settle. Nothing I do really matters.
Think of these emotions as symptoms. They are neither good nor bad. They may be new to you, but there is nothing wrong or weak about you if you feel these ways. Remember to be compassionate and understanding of yourself. Have forbearance of others–your children, your partner, teachers–who are also experiencing new feelings. With mutual support and intentionality, we will get through this, exhausting as it is. But we need to exercise patience with ourselves and others in the meantime.