Earlier this year I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were chatting on how COVID has changed us socially. They were referring to the different levels of pain and how there is guilt associated with some of the pain. We have all been affected by the pandemic; some more than others. For those who were healthy and employed, staying at home was more of an inconvenience than a true problem. The biggest discomfort was juggling the family life with work and school, and having no way to let go of the stress of it outside the home.
Yet the pain around us is real. So many are sick, so many need oxygen, so many need their paycheck, and so many continue to die. It’s been more than a year and many are still suffering at the hands of COVID and its minions. The exhaustion of the healthcare community, the pain in the eyes of those who have lost someone, the desperation of those without a job, and the suffering of those who are sick; can those who have been unscathed really dare say something about the small inconvenience of having to simply stay at home? Yes.
We first have to understand that the effects of COVID aren’t only physical; they are emotional, mental, and even spiritual. Stress from being cooped up at home and having to manage school for kids or being alone plays a huge part on how we feel. Depression can hit when we have to face the news of pain every day, again and again, as well as the reality of social injustice. Missing out on important events or even small family ones can give power to a downward spiral of our state. The need for connecting with others and the different methods for coping that we might not have available during a lockdown, add to the hardship of solitude forced upon us.
It might look weak to feel discouraged, tired, or hurt, when facing these difficulties, and when so many are fighting for their lives. It might look ungrateful to complain about an uncomfortable situation where some are struggling to breathe. In comparison, one situation is much better than the other, yet let’s admit that both are bad. We cannot sweep under the rug a tough situation because another one is tougher. They both need to be acknowledged. One party might have more strength to keep moving forward and to try and share some of the burden from the most hurt party. We can take turns serving each other, but we are not to cause shame for pain that is real.
I can admit that there are times where I don’t have the strength or space to be empathetic. I have too much pain to think of helping others with theirs. Yet my pain doesn’t give me permission to discount theirs. By allowing them to hurt without my judgment, I am allowing a safe space for the pain to be processed. We can’t escape the hurt; we can’t think that not talking about it or talking over it about things that are going fine, it is going to make the feeling disappear. Pain unfortunately needs to be lived in order for us to be freed from it. Do not sow your pain because it will grow into a heart-eating plant. Recognize it so you can process it into something good and useful, and when you are ready, proceed to help those around you.