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  • Mike Fluit, MSW RSW

"The Coronavirus is a Thief"




A friend posted this a few weeks ago on social media, and it’s really stuck with me. On so many levels, this has been true. We’re all aware of the devastation and loss that the virus has caused as we see the rising death tolls. We know that every single one of those people who have been lost to the virus are someone’s loved ones, parents, grandparents, sibling, husband, wife or child. The virus has stolen people before their time and the impact is tragic.


Despite how widespread the virus is, many of us have still not come face to face with the virus itself in this way. But whether or not we’ve come face to face with the virus ourselves, it has stolen from us and continues to do so. Just this last week, the Ontario government announced that overnight summer camps for children would be cancelled for the summer. This is what caused my friend to post on Facebook, and he is right. Think of all of the collective experiences that have been lost a result of the virus: cancelled graduations, retirement parties, weddings, anniversaries, vacations and so on. This virus has taken so much of our ability to celebrate and experience joy together. Make no mistake, the coronavirus is a thief that continues to steal from us.


On an emotional level, the virus has attempted to steal our sense of peace. No longer can we simply pop in to the grocery store to pick something up without some realization of how at risk of infection we are. We are collectively on edge, aware of the danger that lurks behind every former handshake, hug, shopping cart handle, store shelf and cashier interaction.


This has not been our normal, and we are collectively grieving. Grieving the loss of loved ones, our former routines, our personal space (if we’re working from home with family), our sense of freedom to come and go as we please. While this experience may not be what we always associate with grief, we are all experiencing a shift from what was normal and known to us to navigating a new unknown. Grief is challenging and unpredictable, often bringing a range of different emotions that come and go at different times. When it seems we have things mostly together, something can come out of the blue and really upset us, taking us by surprise. You’re not alone if you’ve been more frustrated, irritable and angry than usual, and while it may be triggered by some specific frustration in the moment, the intensity of what we feel is compounded by what’s going on in the world. The fact that our work has changed, school has changed, our summer plans have changed…everything has changed.


I was a part of a large online meeting the other day during which one of the participants had the courage to speak honestly about how he was feeling about some of the changes in his work. Rather than just skimming over it like we so often do, he named what he was feeling. What followed was a collective outpouring of emotions that was needed for everyone there. Expressing his reality didn’t change it, but in the middle of the meeting, the tone changed. People found connection in the shared experience. People found that they weren’t alone, and as others expressed their emotions, they were able to find more clarity in what they were feeling as well.


In some way, we all need this type of connection right now. Life has changed. Work has changed. This isn’t what we signed up for, and it’s really hard. We need to have these real conversations because if we don’t, we’ll continue to feel more and more disconnected. Maybe talking about the current reality won’t bring about a specific change, but acknowledging our emotions, and connecting with people on this emotional level helps us to take back some of what the coronavirus has stolen. It’s stolen the ways in which we’ve gathered but it doesn’t have to steal our ability to really connect with people if we don’t let it.


Maybe as you’re reading this you’re feeling as though it’s a great day. Great…enjoy this day for what it is for you. And keep this reminder in the back of your mind for when things shift. Or perhaps this is exactly the validation you needed today - to feel what you’re feeling, acknowledge it and find connection in the midst of it. We may be forced to be separated, but we are not alone. Reach out, let someone know how you’re really doing and you may find a sense of connection that has been missing for some time.


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