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Why there is hope for our future following COVID-19

Updated: May 15, 2020

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 turned everyone’s world upside down, and left many of us feeling confused, isolated and scared. Losing loved ones, losing jobs, businesses closing, graduations, weddings and trips canceled. It created a wave of change that felt like it happened overnight leaving people with unanswered questions and uncertainty for our future.

With the changes that occurred we experience grief and with grief comes sadness, anger, denial and anxiety. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, David Kessler, refers to this emotion we are experiencing as “collective grief.” As a global community we are grieving what we have lost and the fear of the unknown.

The question I believe many of us are asking now is what happens next? How do we start again? What will be the new normal? Will we ever bounce back from this experience?

When a crisis occurs it can be traumatizing, and this pandemic is considered a crisis. COVID-19 has caused us to experience “collective trauma,” which is trauma that is experienced by large groups. When we hear the word trauma, we tend to fear the worst and believe that experiencing this will cause us to suffer negative emotional consequences for a lifetime.

What is often overlooked is the potential for growth from a traumatic event. Post-traumatic Growth (PTG) is the experience of positive transformation after a trauma occurs. According to the American Psychological Association, Richard Tedeschi, PhD, one of the psychologists that developed this theory explained that PTG can cause: “People to develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life.” In a 1996 study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Dr. Richard G. Tedeschi and Dr. Lawrence G. Calhoun, review three areas where growth can occur following a traumatic event: “changes in self-perception, changes in interpersonal relationships, and a changed philosophy of life.” With this information we can have hope that the collective trauma we are experiencing will lead to a positive transformation as an individual and community.

One thing to note is that when we are experiencing a trauma it is important to accept and embrace all negative emotions. Without acceptance of these emotions we can face long term pain and psychological disorders caused by deep rooted wounds. Feeling sad, anxious, scared and angry are all normal emotions and should be honored and respected. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream, get it out! Embrace the suck!

This is a challenging time and we are in this together. My hope is that we have compassion for ourselves and others, while looking forward to a future filled with more love, appreciation, wisdom and kindness. I don’t know what our new normal will be, but I believe we will come out stronger and experience Post-Traumatic Growth that will ultimately lead to a positive transformation as individuals and a society.

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