While the world dismantles around us and we hear, see, and feel grief, some people are finding joy in the opportunities that the COVID-19 pandemic brings. They feel horrible about it. The guilt is very real, but so is the silver lining, and that’s ok.
I was taking a walk in my neighborhood the other day and I ran into a friend of mine. From 6 feet away she told me how the pandemic had turned her life upside down and then she whispered, “I’m really enjoying myself.”
To be clear, feeling this way is somewhat of a luxury; it’s not to say this isn’t an awful time for humanity. People are losing their loved ones, their jobs, and every semblance of normalcy they’ve ever known. But for those who have been able to stay healthy and who have been fortunate enough to not have their lives be terribly disrupted financially, many are spending more time with their families, taking classes online, picking up new hobbies, and even getting in shape.
It’s been reported that many children are happier. They are enjoying having their parents home all day and they are appreciating having “family time,” something many of our busy lives didn’t previously allow for.
In a recent CNN report, one mother said, “Beforehand, they didn’t have a chance to just be present at home. Every day after school we were running to music, running to gymnastics, and then we would get home, do homework and go to bed – I don’t want it to go back to the way things were.”
Another friend of mine – somewhat of an introvert – is relishing in this time with no social commitments, nowhere to be, and not feeling guilty about staying home doing nothing. For me, my son is in grad school and I had come to terms with the fact that I likely wouldn’t see him much for the next 2 years. “Mom, I’m going to be super busy,” he warned. But now, he’s home. School is virtual at least until the fall – and we’re having breakfast, lunch, and dinner together.
Feeling joy in a time like this can feel awkward. Guilt is this uncomfortable emotional state that we find ourselves in when we either did something we shouldn’t have done or failed to do something we should have done. It also pops up when we feel that relative to others, we are in a better situation.
Even when we’re not going through a pandemic, guilt is around in our everyday lives. We feel it when we’ve spent too much, procrastinated, indulged, or failed to be a good partner or parent.
In this current crisis, we’re also feeling:
Connected: Many have offered to buy groceries for the elderly or raise funds to feed the hungry. Others have pledged to help keep our healthcare workers safe as they fight to save lives.
Hashtags like #InThisTogether and #StayHome are attached to almost every social media post. And celebrities are coming together to perform as a way of creating solidarity. When was the last time that you felt as connected to the human race as you do now? It’s crazy to think this, but many people on the planet share the same fears as you.
Excitement: If you’re into politics, public health, epidemiology, or business (to name a few topics), you may be feeling some excitement around the historical and unprecedented moments that are playing out in front of you. The older generation talks about the Great Depression as an awful, but certainly memorable, phase in their lives. Coronavirus will likely have a similarly lasting impact on all of us.
Joy: For those who have always wanted to learn to cook, dive into the books stacked on their nightstands, or pursue a myriad of different things, but couldn’t find the time, this pandemic is presenting us with the “break” we never thought we’d have.
Relief: We just don’t have to be perfect anymore. It’s ok not to have your nails or hair done. Sweatpants are the fashion trend of the moment and the local pizza joint is on speed dial. And you know what, no one is judging.
My own guilt made me wary of talking about these feelings with a broader audience, but so many of us are going through the same thing, and as a psychologist, I always tell my patients that every feeling is valid. I decided I should take my own advice.
Dr. Raquel Bild-Libbin, Psychologist
Dr. Raquel Bild-Libbin is a Miami based licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, coping with life transitions, relationship problems, stress management, parental challenges and chronic illnesses. She has an exceptional reputation as an effective, experienced, ethical and confidential practitioner.
She earned her Master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Miami. Dr. Bild-Libbin serves as a Parenting Coordinator for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Family Court Division, in Miami, Florida.
Dr. Bild-Libbin is a past president of the Dade County Psychological Association and a past vice-president of the Dade County Mental Health Association. She has received several awards including the Florida Psychological Association – In the Public Interest Award for Outstanding Contributions to Psychology.