A Trauma Survivor's Reminders to Encourage Healing During COVID-19
Similar to most people, I have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new-to humans virus that causes respiratory infection and can lead to serious or fatal health complications. New York has officially been on a state mandated stay-at-home order since March. My schedule was changed abruptly when my college quickly moved online and I returned home. My relationship soon became long-distance, as we were living in different households. I had to leave my new job near my school. All of a sudden, everything I knew was far behind me.
As New York areas begin phase one of reopening the state, I think it’s important to recognize that this is a collective traumatic experience for all. We have all lost something. It could be a family member or loved one, an opportunity, your senior year and graduation, your job, or just as simple as your daily life as it was. As we begin to overcome this hurdle together, heal and adjust to our life as the new “norm,” it is important that we acknowledge that this is an event we must heal from.
As a pre-COVID-19 trauma survivor, I have spent the last six years of my life learning techniques and methods on how to heal from traumatic experiences. Although I am not educated enough to give those techniques and methods to you, and I believe that people reflect trauma in different ways, I do have a few reminders that might still be useful to all of those healing from the COVID-19 experience.
- Acknowledge what life was before and what you have lost during this time in quarantine.
In my past experiences, one of the most difficult parts of healing from trauma is acknowledging what happened. It took me years to acknowledge that the abuse I experienced as a child actually happened and who I was because of it. Similar to this, thousands of people have been incredibly impacted by COVID-19. Some have lost loved ones. Some lost their senior year, graduation and prom. Some have lost their jobs or their education. This is a collective trauma. It may be a different experience for everyone, but we have all lost something. We must accept who we were before this and what we have experienced. COVID-19 has changed our lives. The more we deny it, the harder it will be to heal.
- Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. Your feelings are valid no matter the depth of your struggle.
I have always been self-critical when I feel angry, sad, depressed, frustrated, etc. about life events. There is this underlying shame that makes me feel that I should always be happy because someone has it worse than me. This is toxic. Do not listen to this gremlin. Do not feed it after midnight or give it water. (Just kidding. If you got that reference, I am proud of you! Seriously though don’t listen to them.) Remind yourself that your feelings are valid too. I have lost something. You have lost something. The person next to us has lost something. This pandemic has been traumatic for everyone. You have every right to feel whatever you feel no matter the circumstances.
- Remind yourself that everyone is struggling. Be Kind.
This may sound contradictory to my last point, but let me explain. Everyone has feelings and every one of them is valid. With that, it is important to acknowledge that everyone deals with trauma and grief differently. Pain can cause people to act unkindly to each other. In times of conflict, give yourself a gentle reminder that each and every one of us is trying our best to get through the day. Empathy and kindness can be one of the best gifts we can give each other at the end of the day.
- Understand the importance of a support system.
This will be a reoccurring theme throughout my future posts, because this truly is my biggest tip for healing from anything. Love and support from people in your life is by far one of the most important factors during this pandemic. Call your best friend on the phone. Video chat with your partner. Sing to your grandma through video. Join online support groups. Zoom meet with your students. Staying connected will remind you that you are not alone in this. You are loved. You are cared about. You provide meaning to others’ lives.
- Accept that you will never be the person you were before this. You are braver.
Sometimes when I look back on my trauma, I wonder what it would be like to be the person I was before it all happened. I can imagine that many of us are thinking about who we were and what our lives looked like. I know many of us may wish we could go back, but look: you are reading this post right now. You have made it. It may be just by a thread at a moment, but you’ve made it. You were brave. Even though this has not been easy in the slightest, you have continued to face your fears, to be where you are right now. So yes, you may not be who you were before. You are braver though. You have been brave once, so you can continue to be brave throughout the changes that are yet to come.
Please continue to take good care of yourselves during this time.
You provide meaning to this world.
Don’t ever forget that.
This story originally appeared on Breathing Bravery Blog