Lauren Rockwell

@laurenrockwell | contributor
Lauren Rockwell MA, LPA is a psychologist and she is an expert in the evaluation of children for abuse neglect, trauma issues surrounding illness and other life experiences with grief and loss. She has worked for 30 years in private practice. As a cancer survivor, Lauren blogs about her personal experiences with cancer and trauma at afterfiveyears.com. Lauren is currently writing a book on the experience of trauma post breast cancer.

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Fighting Cancer Showed Me How to Deal With Uncertain Times

After my mom died, I remember how every morning in the days that followed, I would wake up and for a few moments, I would be free. For just an instant, I would forget she was gone. And then with a jolt, it would explode to the surface, “Oh my god, she’s gone.” And a day of fresh grief would start anew. Same with a cancer diagnosis. I would finally find sleep, but would wake up during the night to use the bathroom, and on that five-foot walk there I would suddenly remember, “Oh my god, have cancer, I have cancer!” And the grief, the agony and the spin would start anew. Also during cancer treatment, I would regularly have bad dreams. A nightly one was where I was running in a marathon. Running and running and running, I would arrive at each mile marker, yet no one would tell me which mile it was, or how much farther I had to go. In the dream, I had no idea how many miles I had come, yet I knew I was exhausted. This week, about three weeks into our COVID-19 stay at home order, I posted on social media. I explained that while I had been doing OK so far, this week I had hit a wall. I was surprised how many replied, “me too, me too.” Everyone it seemed was saying that they had done OK with it – until now. It was a wall hittin’ weekend for a lot of folks. I can think of a lot of reasons why this happened. First, like in my running dream, it is very hard to do something when you don’t know how long it will last. Uncertainty is draining. I am a girl who likes to pace myself with difficult tasks. No matter what is ahead of me, I want to know how long. A dental impression, a long flight, I always ask how many minutes, how many days will it be? With each element of an MRI, I ask the people in the booth to count me down, to tell me the lengths of each new segment and how many minutes are left in each one. Mentally it makes it more doable for me. I can eat an elephant a bite at a time if I know how much is left. But it seems with COVID-19, a new viral strain that can lead to serious or fatal health complications, we are finding that number, the “how long,” is always changing, ever fluid. We think we know what mile marker we are running toward, say 14 days, but the goalposts keep getting moved. And with numbers being floated that it could be 18 months, it’s exhausting to imagine. I remember a day when I thought the first part of my chemo treatment was finished. It was a particularly nasty chemo drug that made me very, very sick. I got up that day and happily went to chemo, mentally feeling ready to swallow the last bite. I remember my chemo nurse Marcy gently breaking it to me, saying, “No Lauren, you have six more weeks of it.”And I absolutely lost it. I thought I had scaled the first wall, only to be told, no Lauren, there is still another 100 feet to climb. I hit the wall hard that day. I bounced off it and laid on the ground for a long time. And I wept. So many of us have hit that wall these last days. We made it through the first difficult weeks, only to find there is more ahead. We had paced ourselves and mentally prepared thinking, “Oh I can do this for a month, I can stay inside and I can homeschool, and I can stretch my finances for that long.” And then we were told nope another month. At least. Another month. Maybe more. And we hit the wall hard. And we wept. Uncertainty is exhausting. Not knowing “how much longer” is one thing, but uncertainty about the outcome is another. Uncertainty about our health and our family’s health. Uncertainty about ever finding normal again? It takes a lot out of you. I was horrified when I was told my chemo protocol was 18 months. It seemed impossible and undoable. It was overwhelming to imagine what those 18 months would be filled with — no hair, social isolation, icky treatment and the loss of all the things I would miss out on as a mom of young kids. The uncertainty about outcome ping-ponged in my head on the daily. “Will I live? When will I feel safe from this again? Will my family make it through?” I had no idea, no assurance that if I did A & B, I would get rid of the big C. Each hour was constant mental darting between “I’m gonna die from this,” and back to, “it will be OK, your odds are good if you do what you are told.” We have hit the wall of wondering about the uncertainty of these things with COVID-19. We are exhausted and the goalposts have been moved. We are longing for normal. The crisis phase of grief is busy and loud. We are just now rounding out of that phase with COVID-19. While the shock of finding out I had cancer was exhausting as it stole sleep and headspace, the “doing” of early cancer diagnosis was even more taxing. The prepping and navigating all the things that had to be done under a downpour cloud of, “Oh my god I can’t believe this is happening” — things like finding an oncologist, preparing my kids for what was ahead, getting a port put in and sorting finances. Each day it seemed was a new crisis to manage, a new adjustment in my life, a new thing to grieve, a new fear, a new facet of what would fill the 18 months ahead. It was a time filled with waking up each day feeling “normal” and then, remembering it was happening. Each day was overwhelming grief about losing my normal. The busyness of that initial phase made what was ahead seem even more impossible to imagine. Living 18 months while sustaining this exhausting level of anxiety, chatter and adjustment seemed impossible. With COVID-19, we have all been in crisis mode. Zapping our energy with the hunting and gathering of our supplies at a frantic pace, making arrangements to get kids home from college, learning ZOOM and canceling big social events, while grieving their loss. We have been busy busy busy learning about COVID-19, learning to sanitize and wash our hands, packages and groceries. We have been adjusting to the loss of social contact and are using up tons of mental energy for hypervigilance about distancing. We are unable to restore energy as many are having the bad dreams, waking up only to remember, “ Oh my god COVID-19 is happening.” The crisis phase is filled with lots of chatter, a lot of noise, a lot of talk about nothing but COVID-19. I remember in my crisis phase of cancer there came a day when I told my dad on the phone that I was calling a moratorium on cancer talk. I realized that every square inch of my brain, 24/7, was being taken up with cancer talk, cancer information and cancer thoughts. Cancer Cancer Cancer. I had cancer fatigue. COVID COVID COVID. I now have COVID-19 fatigue. We all do. COVID-19 fatigue comes from anger about why aren’t people distancing or taking it seriously. It comes because sustained fear is exhausting. Worry is exhausting. Anxiety is energy-sapping. Hypervigilance is draining. It comes from the constant chatter.  The noise in our head, the noise outside our head. It comes from the constant mental pinballing back and forth between this is deadly serious vs. I am overreacting. COVID-19 fatigue arrives with the abatement of the initial surge of adrenaline needed to get through the crisis phase. It comes from climbing a wall with raw scrubbed hands while in isolation, only to wonder, will there be an ICU bed and vent for me? It comes from our dissection of and the freak out at every cough or sneeze. Every hot flash, every body ache is suddenly a big thing to think about. COVID-19 fatigue comes because of uncertainty about how many walls are ahead of us, or how much longer this will last. It comes from using up all the immense energy in having to learn a completely new way to live. The busyness and all the prepping for this new thing. And COVID-19 fatigue comes from grief, and the longing for normal again. It’s exhausting and terrifying to have people say “This is the new normal; get used to it.” It’s like getting a plate of poo and being told you will like it. Yeah, not so much right now. COVID, COVID, COVID. I remember too, the defeat I felt on the day when I finally scaled that first cancer wall and triumphantly looked out ahead. I was thinking I would see the promised land of Normal, but all I saw were more and more walls ahead, some of them even bigger than the one I had just climbed. It made me hit that first wall with my fists and weep, “I can’t do this! It’s not fair!” But I did it. Because the alternative wasn’t so spiffy. And COVID-19 fatigue or not, you can do it too. I promise you, you can do this. Here is how. During cancer, a friend sent me a note early on that said, “You won this battle, now win the war.”And that was how I learned to pace myself through the ordeal. Not by oh my god 18 MONTHS! But instead by simply navigating each “battle of the day.” A bite a time. I climbed only the wall in front of me and trained my brain to avoid thinking about those ahead, allowing myself to see only as far as the headlights could shine that day. I refused to focus on the uncertainty of “how much longer” and “what will happen?” anymore, because no one had the answer. I knew 18 months was a likely endgame and that was it. I cut myself some slack and allowed for rest. I allowed that I was mentally exhausted from those early weeks of the crisis phase. With COVID-19 fatigue, you have bounced off that wall. It’s OK to lay there for a bit. It’s a lot to navigate, so it’s OK you haven’t cleaned closets, or written a novel. Balance will come, I promise. It’s OK to feel you can’t follow the advice of well-meaning friends. I had so many people tell me how to “do cancer.” Eventually, I discovered there are no Cancer Police. Similarly, there are no COVID-19 Police. You have to find a way to navigate COVID-19 that works for you. You do you. Find a way to fill your cup and cope, within the confines of COVID. In hindsight, I learned this important truth: the first wall is the hardest. Each wall thereafter isn’t easier because they are smaller or lesser, but because you build both the mental and physical muscles to climb them. You gain dexterity, as climbing becomes more the norm, so it’s not as taxing and fatiguing. In crisis, I didn’t have my “cancer legs” yet, and it made me imagine that all walls ahead would be as hard and tiring to climb as the first one. But they weren’t. We are just getting our COVID-19 legs. The rest of this ordeal will be less exhausting, more doable, and will be, I promise, more normal feeling. I learned not to add unnecessary weight to the climb. A head full of junk and noise and fear and worry was heavy enough, without me adding other stuff (I’m talking to you CNN and Twitter) to the climb. Sometimes information/news is not the rocket fuel we think it is, but sludge that exhausts and weighs us down. And finally, here is the golden rule I learned about getting through the hard stuff. Never look at swimmers in the other lane. Let me say that again, never look at swimmers in the other lane. I learned there are a thousand different types of breast cancer tumors, and it did me no good to look at the other swimmers to inform me of my outcome or progress. Looking at the other swimmers only served to fill my head with heavy junk that made me sink. With COVID-19, resist the urge to read up on who has died. And for the love of God, stop comparing their pre-existing conditions, age or weight to yours. Just swim in your COVID lane. Do you. Take care of yourself and your family the best you can. Lastly, embrace that worst-case scenario on the duration of this. I know that sucks right? But hear me out. I can confirm that once I wrapped my head around and swallowed the bite of “OK, it’s 18 months of chemo, I can do that,” it got a lot better. It was then I knew how big the elephant was. New energy arrives when you put down the sword and anger about it and just decide to live in that space. Remember, struggling against something will drown you. This week, after listening to experts I simply decided in my non-medical brain, 18 months is a good estimate for a definitive endgame for COVID-19 and quarantine. In 18 months, we will likely have a vaccine. And yes, we may even have a cure/treatment earlier, and that would be dandy. I can do 18 months, just as I did before, considering the alternative. We can do it by reminding ourselves that each day is one day closer to some super smart person coming up with a treatment or a vaccine. We can do it by remembering if we do what we are told and stay home and wash our hands — if we do A & B, we will rid ourselves of C. Each day will be easier as you build your COVID legs, and will seem more normal. It’s doable if it keeps you healthy. While it’s too early, and we are too tired and cranky to “feel the good” that will come of this, know it will come. Lean into the early snippets of it that you come across each day. Remember this, you are never as far from “normal again” as you are in the crisis phase. From here on in, you get closer to normal each day, each minute, each second. You have won this battle, now you can win the war. I promise you, you will once again have a day where COVID-19 doesn’t greet you each morning or shake you awake from dreamy innocence. A brain free from COVID-19 thoughts will greet you for a few moments each morning, and then will linger a few moments longer, and eventually it will start to stay around all day. COVID-19, like cancer for me, will become something that happened long ago. And you will have lived your way into normal. But the funny thing about the normal we long for? It’s sometimes not the same, it’s even better. But that’s another story for another day. Concerned about the coronavirus? Stay safe using tips from these articles: 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 What to Do If COVID-19 Information Is Affecting Your Anxiety Preparing for a Hospital Admission With Rare Disease During COVID-19 How Is the New Coronavirus Treated?

Fighting Cancer Showed Me How to Deal With Uncertain Times

After my mom died, I remember how every morning in the days that followed, I would wake up and for a few moments, I would be free. For just an instant, I would forget she was gone. And then with a jolt, it would explode to the surface, “Oh my god, she’s gone.” And a day of fresh grief would start anew. Same with a cancer diagnosis. I would finally find sleep, but would wake up during the night to use the bathroom, and on that five-foot walk there I would suddenly remember, “Oh my god, have cancer, I have cancer!” And the grief, the agony and the spin would start anew. Also during cancer treatment, I would regularly have bad dreams. A nightly one was where I was running in a marathon. Running and running and running, I would arrive at each mile marker, yet no one would tell me which mile it was, or how much farther I had to go. In the dream, I had no idea how many miles I had come, yet I knew I was exhausted. This week, about three weeks into our COVID-19 stay at home order, I posted on social media. I explained that while I had been doing OK so far, this week I had hit a wall. I was surprised how many replied, “me too, me too.” Everyone it seemed was saying that they had done OK with it – until now. It was a wall hittin’ weekend for a lot of folks. I can think of a lot of reasons why this happened. First, like in my running dream, it is very hard to do something when you don’t know how long it will last. Uncertainty is draining. I am a girl who likes to pace myself with difficult tasks. No matter what is ahead of me, I want to know how long. A dental impression, a long flight, I always ask how many minutes, how many days will it be? With each element of an MRI, I ask the people in the booth to count me down, to tell me the lengths of each new segment and how many minutes are left in each one. Mentally it makes it more doable for me. I can eat an elephant a bite at a time if I know how much is left. But it seems with COVID-19, a new viral strain that can lead to serious or fatal health complications, we are finding that number, the “how long,” is always changing, ever fluid. We think we know what mile marker we are running toward, say 14 days, but the goalposts keep getting moved. And with numbers being floated that it could be 18 months, it’s exhausting to imagine. I remember a day when I thought the first part of my chemo treatment was finished. It was a particularly nasty chemo drug that made me very, very sick. I got up that day and happily went to chemo, mentally feeling ready to swallow the last bite. I remember my chemo nurse Marcy gently breaking it to me, saying, “No Lauren, you have six more weeks of it.”And I absolutely lost it. I thought I had scaled the first wall, only to be told, no Lauren, there is still another 100 feet to climb. I hit the wall hard that day. I bounced off it and laid on the ground for a long time. And I wept. So many of us have hit that wall these last days. We made it through the first difficult weeks, only to find there is more ahead. We had paced ourselves and mentally prepared thinking, “Oh I can do this for a month, I can stay inside and I can homeschool, and I can stretch my finances for that long.” And then we were told nope another month. At least. Another month. Maybe more. And we hit the wall hard. And we wept. Uncertainty is exhausting. Not knowing “how much longer” is one thing, but uncertainty about the outcome is another. Uncertainty about our health and our family’s health. Uncertainty about ever finding normal again? It takes a lot out of you. I was horrified when I was told my chemo protocol was 18 months. It seemed impossible and undoable. It was overwhelming to imagine what those 18 months would be filled with — no hair, social isolation, icky treatment and the loss of all the things I would miss out on as a mom of young kids. The uncertainty about outcome ping-ponged in my head on the daily. “Will I live? When will I feel safe from this again? Will my family make it through?” I had no idea, no assurance that if I did A & B, I would get rid of the big C. Each hour was constant mental darting between “I’m gonna die from this,” and back to, “it will be OK, your odds are good if you do what you are told.” We have hit the wall of wondering about the uncertainty of these things with COVID-19. We are exhausted and the goalposts have been moved. We are longing for normal. The crisis phase of grief is busy and loud. We are just now rounding out of that phase with COVID-19. While the shock of finding out I had cancer was exhausting as it stole sleep and headspace, the “doing” of early cancer diagnosis was even more taxing. The prepping and navigating all the things that had to be done under a downpour cloud of, “Oh my god I can’t believe this is happening” — things like finding an oncologist, preparing my kids for what was ahead, getting a port put in and sorting finances. Each day it seemed was a new crisis to manage, a new adjustment in my life, a new thing to grieve, a new fear, a new facet of what would fill the 18 months ahead. It was a time filled with waking up each day feeling “normal” and then, remembering it was happening. Each day was overwhelming grief about losing my normal. The busyness of that initial phase made what was ahead seem even more impossible to imagine. Living 18 months while sustaining this exhausting level of anxiety, chatter and adjustment seemed impossible. With COVID-19, we have all been in crisis mode. Zapping our energy with the hunting and gathering of our supplies at a frantic pace, making arrangements to get kids home from college, learning ZOOM and canceling big social events, while grieving their loss. We have been busy busy busy learning about COVID-19, learning to sanitize and wash our hands, packages and groceries. We have been adjusting to the loss of social contact and are using up tons of mental energy for hypervigilance about distancing. We are unable to restore energy as many are having the bad dreams, waking up only to remember, “ Oh my god COVID-19 is happening.” The crisis phase is filled with lots of chatter, a lot of noise, a lot of talk about nothing but COVID-19. I remember in my crisis phase of cancer there came a day when I told my dad on the phone that I was calling a moratorium on cancer talk. I realized that every square inch of my brain, 24/7, was being taken up with cancer talk, cancer information and cancer thoughts. Cancer Cancer Cancer. I had cancer fatigue. COVID COVID COVID. I now have COVID-19 fatigue. We all do. COVID-19 fatigue comes from anger about why aren’t people distancing or taking it seriously. It comes because sustained fear is exhausting. Worry is exhausting. Anxiety is energy-sapping. Hypervigilance is draining. It comes from the constant chatter.  The noise in our head, the noise outside our head. It comes from the constant mental pinballing back and forth between this is deadly serious vs. I am overreacting. COVID-19 fatigue arrives with the abatement of the initial surge of adrenaline needed to get through the crisis phase. It comes from climbing a wall with raw scrubbed hands while in isolation, only to wonder, will there be an ICU bed and vent for me? It comes from our dissection of and the freak out at every cough or sneeze. Every hot flash, every body ache is suddenly a big thing to think about. COVID-19 fatigue comes because of uncertainty about how many walls are ahead of us, or how much longer this will last. It comes from using up all the immense energy in having to learn a completely new way to live. The busyness and all the prepping for this new thing. And COVID-19 fatigue comes from grief, and the longing for normal again. It’s exhausting and terrifying to have people say “This is the new normal; get used to it.” It’s like getting a plate of poo and being told you will like it. Yeah, not so much right now. COVID, COVID, COVID. I remember too, the defeat I felt on the day when I finally scaled that first cancer wall and triumphantly looked out ahead. I was thinking I would see the promised land of Normal, but all I saw were more and more walls ahead, some of them even bigger than the one I had just climbed. It made me hit that first wall with my fists and weep, “I can’t do this! It’s not fair!” But I did it. Because the alternative wasn’t so spiffy. And COVID-19 fatigue or not, you can do it too. I promise you, you can do this. Here is how. During cancer, a friend sent me a note early on that said, “You won this battle, now win the war.”And that was how I learned to pace myself through the ordeal. Not by oh my god 18 MONTHS! But instead by simply navigating each “battle of the day.” A bite a time. I climbed only the wall in front of me and trained my brain to avoid thinking about those ahead, allowing myself to see only as far as the headlights could shine that day. I refused to focus on the uncertainty of “how much longer” and “what will happen?” anymore, because no one had the answer. I knew 18 months was a likely endgame and that was it. I cut myself some slack and allowed for rest. I allowed that I was mentally exhausted from those early weeks of the crisis phase. With COVID-19 fatigue, you have bounced off that wall. It’s OK to lay there for a bit. It’s a lot to navigate, so it’s OK you haven’t cleaned closets, or written a novel. Balance will come, I promise. It’s OK to feel you can’t follow the advice of well-meaning friends. I had so many people tell me how to “do cancer.” Eventually, I discovered there are no Cancer Police. Similarly, there are no COVID-19 Police. You have to find a way to navigate COVID-19 that works for you. You do you. Find a way to fill your cup and cope, within the confines of COVID. In hindsight, I learned this important truth: the first wall is the hardest. Each wall thereafter isn’t easier because they are smaller or lesser, but because you build both the mental and physical muscles to climb them. You gain dexterity, as climbing becomes more the norm, so it’s not as taxing and fatiguing. In crisis, I didn’t have my “cancer legs” yet, and it made me imagine that all walls ahead would be as hard and tiring to climb as the first one. But they weren’t. We are just getting our COVID-19 legs. The rest of this ordeal will be less exhausting, more doable, and will be, I promise, more normal feeling. I learned not to add unnecessary weight to the climb. A head full of junk and noise and fear and worry was heavy enough, without me adding other stuff (I’m talking to you CNN and Twitter) to the climb. Sometimes information/news is not the rocket fuel we think it is, but sludge that exhausts and weighs us down. And finally, here is the golden rule I learned about getting through the hard stuff. Never look at swimmers in the other lane. Let me say that again, never look at swimmers in the other lane. I learned there are a thousand different types of breast cancer tumors, and it did me no good to look at the other swimmers to inform me of my outcome or progress. Looking at the other swimmers only served to fill my head with heavy junk that made me sink. With COVID-19, resist the urge to read up on who has died. And for the love of God, stop comparing their pre-existing conditions, age or weight to yours. Just swim in your COVID lane. Do you. Take care of yourself and your family the best you can. Lastly, embrace that worst-case scenario on the duration of this. I know that sucks right? But hear me out. I can confirm that once I wrapped my head around and swallowed the bite of “OK, it’s 18 months of chemo, I can do that,” it got a lot better. It was then I knew how big the elephant was. New energy arrives when you put down the sword and anger about it and just decide to live in that space. Remember, struggling against something will drown you. This week, after listening to experts I simply decided in my non-medical brain, 18 months is a good estimate for a definitive endgame for COVID-19 and quarantine. In 18 months, we will likely have a vaccine. And yes, we may even have a cure/treatment earlier, and that would be dandy. I can do 18 months, just as I did before, considering the alternative. We can do it by reminding ourselves that each day is one day closer to some super smart person coming up with a treatment or a vaccine. We can do it by remembering if we do what we are told and stay home and wash our hands — if we do A & B, we will rid ourselves of C. Each day will be easier as you build your COVID legs, and will seem more normal. It’s doable if it keeps you healthy. While it’s too early, and we are too tired and cranky to “feel the good” that will come of this, know it will come. Lean into the early snippets of it that you come across each day. Remember this, you are never as far from “normal again” as you are in the crisis phase. From here on in, you get closer to normal each day, each minute, each second. You have won this battle, now you can win the war. I promise you, you will once again have a day where COVID-19 doesn’t greet you each morning or shake you awake from dreamy innocence. A brain free from COVID-19 thoughts will greet you for a few moments each morning, and then will linger a few moments longer, and eventually it will start to stay around all day. COVID-19, like cancer for me, will become something that happened long ago. And you will have lived your way into normal. But the funny thing about the normal we long for? It’s sometimes not the same, it’s even better. But that’s another story for another day. Concerned about the coronavirus? Stay safe using tips from these articles: 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 What to Do If COVID-19 Information Is Affecting Your Anxiety Preparing for a Hospital Admission With Rare Disease During COVID-19 How Is the New Coronavirus Treated?

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

It's OK to Be Sad About 'First World Problems' During COVID-19

My son and I were talking yesterday about the amount of trauma and loss the coronavirus (COVID-19) will bring. COVID-19 is the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system, and its quick spread has led to canceled events, school closures and disruption of life as we know it. He is a young adult and is often the one to bring balance to my knee-jerk A or Z reaction to many things. I wondered aloud about the long-term negative emotional impact of this on young folks, as he too was sent home from grad school just months before finishing. We talked about how impossibly hard it must be for so many kids, missing the last months of their senior year, especially because it’s a time where all the reward and fun happens. It was supposed to be when they would say their goodbyes, only to be forced to do so prematurely and in days. We talked about other losses such as a friend’s wedding coming up, and about his sister who works in sports, losing her job. And how in this season of celebration, lots is lost. He is wise, always has been. He offered his perspective that this loss would change a generation, especially a generation to whom nothing like this has ever happened. And he is right. It will. But it will change all of us, even those who lived through 9/11 and other wars. No one is exempt. I am a psychologist who deals with trauma issues daily in the kids I see. Suffice it to say it’s not rocket science to recognize the high-level trauma that will result in this pandemic. On that level, there will be a horrific residual impact and psychic toll for our healthcare workers as they are overworked and faced daily with the existential trolley problem of deciding who lives and dies. The agony for healers who have no miracle drug to throw at this and not enough ventilators for all might haunt them. The impact of exposing themselves to a virus that could kill them could echo for years. Trauma and its slimy insidious smoke will creep into the corners of all of our brains. Many of us will lose loved ones and lose our homes. Children will lose elderly caretakers, and families will face eviction and financial ruin. But that trauma stuff is a story for another day. After this is over. But, where there is trauma, there is the sentinel event of loss. And where there is loss, there is grief. And where there is a sudden shocking loss, there is the ambiguous loss of so many things. I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge this right now, and spend some of our time while quarantined or distanced talking about it. It will be, as they say, an ounce saved toward a pound of cure. I pointed out to my son the layers upon layers of loss people are experiencing now, and how folks really don’t know what to do with it or how to express it, this floaty/dread/angry/loss/sad/ shock/weepy/pit in your stomach/lonely feeling. People don’t understand that the complex constellation of feelings I just described is grief. Grief for ambiguous losses. We must open some talk about this now. Imagine if you will when a bomb goes off. We hunker, we hide, we deal with the explosion. It is often months later when we come out and start picking up the pieces that we begin realizing all that was lost. This might be what will happen after the crisis of this pandemic is over. Often, it is then we begin to grieve the more intangible losses. This happened to me with cancer treatment, during the crisis I survived. But a year later, as I began tiptoeing around the shards on the ground, I realized all the ambiguous losses I had, and which I needed to grieve. The loss of the sense I would live a long life, the loss of school plays I had not seen, the loss of the sureness that I would see my daughter walk down the aisle. The intangibles. And with each of those very wispy losses, all the stages of grief would have to happen: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Today, what is happening this moment, as we distance in our homes, as kids scramble to pack up dorm rooms, as workers are told to stay home and as a myriad of joyful and fun and social events are canceled, we are in shock. We are talking about how wild this is, how frustrating this is. We are in the first stage of grieving these ambiguous losses. But many of us don’t recognize it yet. We have lost so, so much already. And no one has really talked about it. An ambiguous loss is a loss we can’t quite get our hands around. The ambiguity speaks to the loss of dreams and futures imagined — the loss of things hoped for and for feelings anticipated. It’s the loss of those wispy, hard to get your hands around yet real beliefs about the metrics of the world. The loss of the steadfast feeling of our safety, and a sense that we live in a world where things are just, people do the right thing and rewards are fairly certain. This loss often happens when bad things happen to good people. And right now, lots of bad things are happening to good people. The grief attached to these things is real, whether you prepared for and anticipated the losses, or if you were blindsided by the enormity of this pandemic this week. I for one had time to prepare mentally, I saw it coming. But admittedly even I, an anxious little information junkie soul, had no idea the immensity of all that I would lose. For others, it was a complete t-bone blindside this week when things ramped up exponentially because they had, for months, avoided consideration of loss, thinking, it’s “just the flu, people are overreacting.” The word ambiguous doesn’t mean it’s confusing or not real, but more so that it’s something you can’t easily get your hands around. It’s a loss that doesn’t have the defined edges and protocols like the loss of a parent or spouse does. It’s likely more like the loss people who miscarry children feel. It’s kind of like walking around with a pit in your stomach, wondering why you feel like crying. It’s under-recognized. A lot of us felt this in our gut the days after 9/11, but for some young adults, it’s a first. With this pandemic, we are experiencing these losses right out of the gates. The loss of things we looked forward to and the loss of things we dreamed about for years, over our lifetime, or even for just months. The pandemic has snatched these dreams away from us. It has stolen events like vacations, weddings and celebrations like graduations. We have lost the experience of human connection that fulfills us found in sports and church, where for some, it was the only human interaction of the week and the connection was greatly anticipated. Here is the rub. These losses are deep and hard but are considered “first world problems.” And that is where we have lost permission to grieve and to talk about it. This is the season of reward for many. The last months of our kids’ senior year, no matter what or where, is the cherry on top of years of hard work. Special ceremonies, senior nights, parties and spring breaks. All “the lasts” have become ones we did not anticipate, they have happened when we didn’t know it. Our kids didn’t know it would be their last dinner at the dining hall together, the last time in the student union or maybe even the last time on campus. It is the season of rewards which won’t likely come, like a sporting event final for a hard-fought-for season and the Olympics. And yet again we get chided if we feel sadness for our “first world problems.” The most profound ambiguous loss we are experiencing is the loss of safety/security. Some folks are for the first time in their life realizing the boogeyman is real. There is such loss in realizing that he can indeed get under your bed, despite what you felt were certain insulating factors. The loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of a home and the loss of sureness that this could never happen to you is profound. I wrestled hard with this when I got cancer. Security being gone is an enormous loss. The loss of your very first world ability to go to a hockey game safely, without possibly dying weeks down the road, is a profound hit to the psyche. Yet we might feel small for admitting it. We have lost beliefs and ideals. Our beliefs about the rewards of working hard will offer us secure housing, financial stability and the ability to retire. That belief that if you work hard and pay your rent, if you are a good employee, you will keep your job. If you diligently put into your IRA all your life, you could retire one day. The belief about who you are is another loss. The belief that you of all people would never be one of those people who defaults on car loans, gets evicted or files bankruptcy, and yet, whelp, here you are. The loss of your belief in the security that hospitals will be equipped to give you all the care you should need when you need it has evaporated as we watch the medical teams in Italy have to make impossible decisions about who gets treatment. The belief that our leaders will protect us mentally, physically and emotionally is shaky right now, and that is core loss stuff right there. The loss of the belief that you of all people don’t have to worry about having toilet paper to wipe your kerdunkerdunk sounds funny and silly but is quite profound. It’s shattering to lose innocence, it’s traumatic to feel things were stolen from us and it is very sad to miss the things we hoped for and anticipated. All ambiguous losses. These losses are not validated, they are often not shared and they are lonely losses. These are the kind of losses people don’t show up with casseroles for. The kind we are sheepish to admit. My point is this. There are a million floaty wispy losses in this pandemic. There is lots to grieve here already. Recognize that, and recognize it is OK to cry and talk about it, even if you think, “Gosh, I feel shallow weeping about not going to the NCAA finals when people are dying.” It’s OK. Often the hardest part about ambiguous losses is the “compare factor.” As if somehow you shouldn’t feel sad because well, it could have been worse, or geez, other people have kids with cancer and have relatives dying, and you missing your kid’s graduation is, well, small potatoes honey. The notion that because “these are first world problems” we shouldn’t be entitled to feel sad about them and grieve them makes the loss complex. We aren’t given permission to cry over them, and at times, are made to feel silly for even saying it out loud. We even admonish ourselves (I know I have), telling ourselves that these things are silly to cry over. Instead, we are quietly crying in the shower over canceling that Disney graduation from college trip cause it seems silly and shallow and first world of us. I will say it. I am sad about not seeing my son walk across the stage, I feel robbed. I am sad about my daughter losing a job she worked her fanny off to get and was thriving at. I am sad that I may not get to retire as soon as I want. And I cry about this nightly. It’s not fair. Right now, the world is telling us, well, the bigger picture is the health of the nation and it is.  But trust me, in the long run, so are these losses, and so is the need for us to be talking about them and about our sadness. This blunting and ignoring of our grief is happening all over social media in the crisis. While keeping perspective is helpful, so is saying, “I know this is hard for you. I am sad. I looked so forward to this and am just beside myself.” In all the memes and jokes on social media, in all the “take a walk” and “distance” and “flatten the curve” posts I have seen, I have yet to see one that has said, “Hey! You out there, missing your senior year of basketball, hey, you out there, missing seeing your kid walk across the stage, you out there, having a meltdown about making rent and facing eviction, you out there, getting yelled at by your boss for not coming to work cause your kids are out of school, you out there, with asthma and over 60 and feeling like a target is on your back, you out there, lonely now because your only socialization was church or sports, you out there, who had to cancel a trip longed dreamed and planned for, you out there, set to retire next year and can’t, you out there, feeling sad and scared and robbed and cheated out of something and in grief. Hey you, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed and grief.” So I will say it, and we all need to say it. Hey! You out there. It is OK to cry over what others may call first world problems. It is OK to grieve these things and talk about them. You out there, these are not small potatoes at all. I am here to say go ahead and cry and talk about it. The loss and grief are real, and it is a really sad time. Let’s catch each other’s tears in this. And hey, you out there, remember this. Both things can be true! You can be deeply sad and grieving, and simultaneously understand the need for the greater common good. So weep, kvetch, scream and complain. But keep silver linings in mind too. Life-changing losses and events like these almost almost hatch good things later. Forest fires always encourage young things to grow. Not “having” makes you realize the joy and privilege of “having.” It makes it sweeter. And as my wise kiddo noted, empathy emerges when we find ourselves in a place we have never been and walking in shoes we have never worn. Laser clarity comes with loss and illuminates what is important and not. It can be a reset. Especially methinks, when the loss is of the first-world variety. In a pandemic, no one is immune from the loss of things we were excited for and looked forward to. No one is immune to the gutted feeling that the loss of safety and security stirs up. So grieve. Cry. Comfort one another. Discuss the sadness and anger of these first world losses as we quarantine. Recognize the complex intertwining of fear and anger and loss in all this. Cry and do all the things people who lose people to death do, support, listen and drop a note. Teach our young adults it’s OK to cry and go, “Yes. This absolutely sucks and is not fair.” Say for all to hear, “I feel uncomfortable saying this given all that is at stake with this virus, but I am sad about not going to my kid’s graduation, wedding, whatever it is.” And listen for how many echoes your very permission-giving proclamation harkens. Echoes over and over of, “Me too, me too.” Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend