Skip to main content

Meditations on an Emergency

Nothing like a little pandemic to get me writing again, huh? 

I have so many thoughts in my brain right now. A simple social media post didn't seem the right venue. So I have picked up the blog to get these thoughts on paper. Or digital paper, as it were. 

Ever since this COVID-19 crisis began, I have been struggling with information overload. There is the desire to be informed and the potential to be overwhelmed by it all. There is the need to filter out truth from fiction. There is the need to distance ourselves, both physically and emotionally sometimes, from others. My anxiety brain often has trouble turning it all off, even in "normal" times. These are not normal times.

Many wise people have pointed out that we are in a period of collective grief. Like any grief, the process cycles between despair, denial, bargaining, anger, and acceptance. Sometimes I feel all of those in one day. I think that one of the things I struggle with the most in all of this is what some like to call "survivor guilt."  Unfortunately, I'm all too familiar with the concept. 

Survivor guilt is that feeling we have when others have suffered or died and we are left with a feeling that we have done something wrong simply by NOT dying (or suffering). When Charlotte died, I felt this most when it was time to celebrate holidays or special days for others. Why were we celebrating and feeling happy when Charlotte was gone? We know that friends and family members had similar feelings. Families of other children with cancer who survived their incredible journeys also share those feelings of survivor guilt, wondering why their child lived when so many others don't. 

Here's how my particular brand of survivor guilt is playing out right now. I see that in many ways I am lucky. I am employed with a steady source of income. I have a child at home who can be relatively independent. I have a spouse who can carry a lot of the domestic burden while I work. I have a home. I have reliable transportation. In short, I have what I need and I feel relatively safe. So why am I still feeling so overwhelmed by life? It feels unjustified. It feels like I'm complaining or ungrateful. It feels like I'm not doing enough to fix the problem. 

Does this sound familiar to anyone? 

I don't know the answer. I'm not really good at appeasing the survivor guilt. I have struggled with this for the last ten years. I know that acknowledging its existence is part of the process. Naming it gives me a way to process it. I do know that finding that circle of family and friends with whom I can vent, laugh, and cry is vital. It keeps me sane. Having others who draw boundaries for me when I can't do it well is essential (thanks to Roger and to my boss at work). 

We are all being told that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We must take things one day at a time. It's all good in theory but much harder in practice. Like all things, this too shall pass. May we find peace in the journey where ever we can and may we be kind to ourselves in this time of crisis. 

Sending love and peace to you all!

Popular posts from this blog

The Edge of Seventeen

It's that time of year when the blog musings center on my grief journey. Every year, it seems like we are busy with end-of-the-year school activities and the start of summer, planning vacations, and then (kablam)'s almost July 9.  Grief is funny. Grief is weird. I remember very early after Charlotte died, I watched the movie Rabbit Hole.  There's an amazingly poignant scene where Nicole Kidman's character is talking with another woman who lost a child over 10 years before (played by Dianne Wiest). She talks about grief being like a brick in your pocket. It never goes away. Sometimes you can even forget it's there. But it comes back and makes its presence known from time to time. And (she says) "it's what you have of them."    I probably did not fully realize then what a powerful and true analogy that is. As time goes on, our grief changes. Yet, it is always there on the edge of things. It sits in that pocket and sometimes makes itself known.  This

The Stages of Grief: COVID Edition

It's 2020. It's almost Christmas. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, we are experiencing what appears to be an incredible surge that is exerting tremendous pressure on our healthcare and social service system. The headlines are clear: we're not done with this madness and December 31, 2020 will not magically be the "end of it".  Earlier in the year, our family thought about whether we might be able to travel at this time. We thought that maybe the curve would be flat enough that we could take a few days away from home during the Christmas holidays. We realized that the pandemic would still be happening, but with the right protections and with prolific mask usage, we could get a much-needed change of scenery. During what is now (clearly) a delusional thought process, we booked a stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the week of December 19th. Spoiler alert: we canceled the trip almost two weeks ago.  Canceling this trip was not a tragedy. In fact, I

Bittersweet Sixteen

I think about Charlotte every single day. However, this time of year, I'm flooded with all kinds of memories as we commemorate the anniversary of her birth. This year feels like a bit of a milestone. Sixteen.  If cancer had not taken her life back in 2010, I have a feeling I would be planning a massive birthday celebration this year. 16 always feels like a landmark year in someone's life.  I have been thinking a great deal about the last birthday party we had for Charlotte in 2009. We didn't know it at the time, but we were halfway through her treatment journey. We had been through three major brain surgeries and a few rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Treatments were not going well. In fact, right after her birthday, we would make the trip to Houston, Texas where we would settle in for about 10 weeks of proton beam radiation treatments and a new customized chemotherapy protocol. This was the unspoken "last chance option" to beat that aggressive brain tumor into