Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid 19 Resilence

This is a stressful time for all of us, filled with fear, anxiety, uncertainty and worry as our world turns upside down. As I write this article, I am in self-isolation. This is good practice if we are to "flatten the curve" and slow down the spread COVID-19. Acting on the advice of experts, people around the world are sequestering themselves in their homes, practising social distancing, washing their hands frequently and properly, coughing and sneezing into tissues and staying home if they're sick. This is our new reality and each of us must take responsibility as we find ourselves in new territory.

When I'm feeling anxious and afraid, I gain strength and inspiration by thinking of the life lessons I learned from my late parents, Fela and Moishe Grachnik, Holocaust survivors from the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz. They endured starvation, hunger, disease, slave labour and the murder of their family members. And yet in spite of these horrendous experiences, they rebuilt their lives after the war, raised a family and contributed to their community.

Life Lessons

As I was growing up, my mother used to say, "In life we never know what lies ahead. What's important is to adapt to circumstances you can't change, no matter how difficult." She made everyday choices to control her environment. One of them was choosing her attitude and taking action when responding to situations. She persevered and never gave up, not even when her entire family was deported to their deaths and she was left alone in the ghetto at the age of fifteen. She had a positive attitude and never dwelled on her suffering. And most importantly, she never lost hope that things would improve – that she would survive and rebuild her life. Both my parents appreciated the simple pleasures in life such as family, friends, their health, and a refrigerator filled with food. They took nothing for granted.

These life lessons serve me well as I face these challenging times. As I peruse the Internet, I find that people around the world are rising to the challenge.  They are finding creative ways to maintain their social connections and have fun without leaving their homes. There are free online movies, quarantine musical concerts by well-known artists, sing-alongs on balconies, free exercise classes, virtual museum visits, operas and streams of Broadway shows. The list goes on and on with new additions posted on the Internet hourly.

10 Ways to Find the Good in Life and Focus on the Positive

Community

Communities are also rallying around their vulnerable members as volunteers deliver groceries to shut-ins and therapists offer free webinars, live stream meditations, therapy sessions, exercise classes and tips for talking to kids about the virus.

In a recent article, The National Post focused on ways individuals and communities are helping each other during the pandemic. Acts of kindness are sweeping the globe. Communities have taken to Facebook to help each other where they can in a process called "caremongering."  The posts range from people offering to do grocery runs, giving advice for applying for employment insurance and keeping each other updated on the latest COVID-19 news. According to Mita Hans, the founder of the Toronto group, the response has been the opposite of panic in people. It has brought out community and camaraderie and allowed these groups to deal with the needs of people who are at-risk.

In addition, stores are dedicating the first hour of opening to older adults and people with disabilities to allow a safe and sanitary shopping experience.

Lots of people are working hard to keep things going on a day-to-day basis, e.g. medical/healthcare workers, pharmacy workers, first responders, truckers, grocery workers, mail carriers, delivery people, journalists, civil services employees, airport personnel, bus and taxi drivers, etc. They are our heroes and let's give them a shout-out and thank them for their service.

Benefits of Loving Out Loud

Positivity

When I read about what is happening around the world, I am filled with hope and positive regard for my fellow human beings. I choose to focus on our common humanity, resilience, and kindness– the goodness that is out there. It doesn't mean I have a Pollyanna attitude or turn a blind eye to the suffering and pain people are experiencing.  Yes, there is panic buying as people raid store shelves and stock up on toilet paper. However, they are in the minority and account for only a small percentage of people.

Crisis can bring out the best in people  

 Inspiration

During this difficult time, I am inspired by the words of Anne Frank, a young German-born Jewish diarist and aspiring writer who spent twenty-five months in hiding in a secret attic in Amsterdam. She died of typhus in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. In her diary she wrote, "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death…If I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again."

Bottom Line

I trust that this too will pass. We will get through this together. Actually, we ARE getting through this together, right now in the present moment, one day at a time.

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Myra Giberovitch is an educator, consultant, author and professional speaker. She is adjunct professor, McGill University School of Social Work and author of Recovering from Genocidal Trauma: An Information and Practice Guide for Working with Holocaust Survivors (University of Toronto Press, 2014). Watch her speak at TedxMontreal – Genocide Survivors: Contributors Not Victims.