COVID -19 has upended the lives of millions around the world. All of our institutions now have to find ways to survive now and recover after this pandemic is over. Churches, considered the rock of spiritual and emotional support for many, now have drive-through anointing and confessions. As the stock market plummets, jobs are lost and social support systems are weakened. We are in an alien land without a road map.
Much critical attention needs to be focused on what is going on in homes around the country. COVID-19 has changed the context of children’s lives, with school closings, activities outside the home eliminated, and in-person counseling no longer possible. With once-reliable support systems no longer available, tensions increase and instances of domestic violence and child abuse have become more frequent. Skyrocketing unemployment and loss of emotional support systems fuel fear and anger, with child abuse or violence against a spouse too often the result.
Few have thought of the collateral damage of the virus, like victims of rape or sexual assault, who may stay away from overrun hospitals for fear of exposure to the virus. Undocumented immigrants may fear going to the hospital and being reported to ICE.
Pro Public summarizes the problem facing many: “Social workers from the front lines of America’s beleaguered social service system, which strains to care for millions of vulnerable people in the best of times, sound the alarm during the current reality. They have written, urging that the country not overlook a secondary crisis growing out of the global pandemic: that those who already live on the margins, many of whom rely on counseling face-to-face for support and survival, will suffer out of public view, behind closed doors, kept shut to keep the virus out.”
During this time of long-term uncertainty, much can be learned from the 12-step programs used by those in addiction recovery. Living for today … getting through a period of difficulty one day at a time, is an important form of coping and self-care. Don’t look to the trip you planned in July or the wedding in October. Concentrate on getting through each day to the best of your ability.
Likewise, the final step of most recovery programs states that the key to maintaining our own emotional well-being is to help others. In this case, the mantra, “We will get through this together,” needs to focus on the most vulnerable, who are often alone already. It’s not always hard to see the families who are on edge – now is the time to reach out with a wave on the street or a call or a text. Just as staying in during this pandemic may save a life, reaching out while we are all behind closed doors may do the same.