Coping With the One-Year Anniversary of the Pandemic

It has been a year so far — and it may last longer.

Posted Feb 26, 2021

Aleks Marinknovic/Unsplash
A neon sign displaying the words, you are here
Source: Aleks Marinknovic/Unsplash

In the United States, we are approaching a year living in a worldwide pandemic. It is almost hard to believe. Some of my previous posts reflect the shock of the initial time in the pandemic (you can read those here, here, and here), and yet, here we are a few weeks away from the one-year anniversary of when the world was thrown into pandemic mitigation.

The week of Friday, March 13th—the day Michigan went into a shelter-in-place order, I had released my first book, The Courage to Suffer,1 on Monday. On Thursday, we were going to start our book tour; instead, I canceled the events and then worked to transition my entire practice to telehealth. I was in shock and struggling to understand what was happening.

In a few short weeks, I will not be able to say, remember what we were doing this time last year and how it reflects on my past way of living. It will be directly connected to this new way, the continued living-in-a-pandemic way. What I have struggled with is accepting what is, not what I want it to be. As I have sat with this for the past year and worked with my own clients as we wrestled with this, I have been able to recognize often what causes us the most harm is in fact just that—resisting what is. 

When we ask that question, what we are doing is really exposing grief that the world was not as we had hoped or expected. The concern is in fact, the longing for what we thought we wanted—our expectation of this world. We can boil down most work that we do psychologically to accepting the reality we do not want. In fact, this lays bare our own relationship with reality. In what ways do we create stories to keep us trapped in our own lives (e.g., they will change, I just need to get back to normal, this should never have happened)? Instead—how would your life change if you just accepted it?

This is called radical acceptance.2 

Radical acceptance is just that: radical. The acceptance of what is, rather than what we want. Right now it could look like this: We are living in a pandemic, this is who my partner is, this is my normal now, this has happened. Then you can decide how to proceed. It allows you to realistically ask, What do I then want to make of my life? 

The work of living is accepting what is rather than what we want. 

References

1. Van Tongeren, D. R. & Van Tongeren, S. A. S. (2020). The Courage To Suffer: a new clinical framework for life's greatest crises. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press.

2. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders: Cognitive behavioral treatment for borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford Press.