Pandemic Anniversary

Anniversary dates can be rough. Whether we are consciously thinking of them or not, they tend to influence our mood. As I moved through this past week it was evident on both a personal and professional level that everyone was dealing with the one year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown. Some actively reflected on it and spoke about March 13, 2020 in great detail; taking me through that day step-by-step. Others spoke of a general lethargy that had washed over them starting this last weekend. The majority reflected on what hadn’t happened over the past year. Essentially what had been lost. For some it was an actual death. For most it was the loss of seeing family, being separated from loved ones and an inability to engage in yearly traditions.  For my pregnant patients it was experiencing pregnancy in a much different way than they ever expected. Having a new baby and then subsequently no visitors. Some patients expressed anger, hurt, powerlessness, but most expressed extreme fatigue.  So why is this anniversary date so collectively impactful? 

Our sympathetic nervous system (which is linked to our fight or flight response, which in turn is triggered when adrenaline increases) is designed to function for brief periods of time, NOT an ENTIRE YEAR! With the pandemic our brain has been asked to remain in this protective state for way too long. As our brain comes out of that, and case numbers potentially drop in your area and people perhaps see some hope with the vaccine rollout, the brain now has the ability to actually reflect on what you’ve experienced this past year and process how you are feeling about it. It’s a slow process but it is definitely starting for many people.

image: sinitta leunen

Here are some ways to help you navigate this process:

  • Conceptualize these losses as grief. While we tend to think of grief as a process we go through after someone dies, we actually experience the grief process after any type of significant loss. Everyone defines what’s significant in their own way. Grief could hit after a break-up or divorce; a move; a miscarriage; difficulty with breastfeeding; a birth plan turning out differently. One of the most important factors of getting through the process is to make sure you have the ability to share your story.
  • Talk about what you’ve lost. 
    • Can people listen or do you have people interrupting your story
    • What would you like to:
      • Tell the person who passed away or say about the experience that is no longer part of your life/happened differently
      • Have happened differently
      • Have had more of
  • Loss is about accepting what was with the person/experience and then being able to say, “I miss you. You were important to me. Goodbye”
  • We grieve naturally. No one has to tell us how. 
  • There is no going around grief. You have to go through it. 


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