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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!



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