As Covid-19 and our country’s political crisis continue to rage on, it becomes increasingly difficult to cope with and manage our fears and anxieties. We are enduring so many losses. In fact, there’s a kind of hazy, threatening cloud of grief hanging over everything. Some days it feels unmanageable.
In the midst of all of this, it can be useful to stop a moment to begin to recognize and face our losses, asking ourselves:What have I lost? What am I losing? In fact, naming our losses may be the first step in beginning to cope with them.
I’ve noticed that by honestly discussing their losses, some of my clients have named and added to their lists. One in particular that I find powerful and troubling: the loss of a vision for the future.
The monotony and quiet terror of the pandemic and the brash and violent world of Trump has infected these clients with a unique trauma and grief. They fall into a malaise of powerlessness…and feel suspended in time and without a sense of a future.
Many feel numbed out and detached. It’s as if their personal story feels closed, or has already been written by someone else. Instead of being able to imagine a future vision, there is a sense of futility and/or impotence obscuring their view and cutting them off from their own self-agency.
Naturally, to greater or lesser degrees, because of all we’ve lost during the past 10 months, our narratives do feel taken over, constrained or foreclosed. The answer to: what future vision is possible? is harder to ask and imagine than ever before, and the daily precariousness we feel has pushed us into grief overload while we try to pull the proverbial cart uphill and grow more exhausted each day.
And yet, it is critical that we try to ask and answer the question: What is possible? It is a hopeful question, but hope should not be understood to be sunshiny and naively optimistic. It is not a fairy tale about how everything ends “happily ever after.” To the contrary, hope contends with adversity and searches for what is possible, but acknowledges how complex the world is. Then hope can lead to further questions and possible openings in that complexity. One such question is, what small step can we take to support our own or another’s attempts to reclaim a sense of agency?However small we decide to begin, there is mutual benefit to be gained by working together.
It is hard not to feel frightened now. There are many dire circumstances arrayed against the recovery of our spirit. It is appalling to see just how many and how powerful they are. Though we don’t know when or how, at some point, the acuity of these crises will abate, that may be when we begin to feel more fully again. Meantime, perhaps we can tentatively start to explore the deeper wells of meaning that connect us to empathy and discernment for self and others. If so, I believe we will be better prepared to sooner recover an animating future vision, borne of our losses, but substantial, hopeful, and worthy of our sincere efforts.
David Fireman, LCSW