Honoring Our Embodied Trauma in the Midst of a Pandemic
How are your bodies and hearts right now, friends?
I don’t know a single person right now that isn’t enduring some sort of loss. Perhaps our jobs feel uncertain or are already gone. Perhaps we’ve woken in the middle of the night terrified that the stores will not have food or provisions that we need in order to care for ourselves and our families.
Perhaps our children are unexpectedly out of school and we can’t find childcare or are needing to change routines. Perhaps our children have special needs that make changes in their routine incredibly difficult, not only for them but also for those of us caring for them. Perhaps we’ve had to cancel vacations or trips that we have spent time and resources planning for. Perhaps we haven’t been able to get refunded for canceled flights in a time when the economy feels uncertain and we are worried about paying rent or mortgages next month.
Perhaps we are isolated in our homes as single people, reminded in tangible ways of what it means to feel so deeply alone in a crisis. Perhaps we are with family members and the relational tension feels thicker each day. Perhaps we have loved ones that we are not able to see because of health concerns.
This is a disorienting time. I want to suggest that it makes sense for us to respond to disorientation with the reaction that feels the most comfortable and natural to us. We all have known some form of loss prior to the events of 2020. Our bodies already know what it feels like to lack comfort, resources, safety, and security. Even though these events feel unprecedented for many of us, they also bear the familiar themes of loss and scarcity that we have already experienced. For many of us, it feels natural to respond with a sense of weary tenacity. Or perhaps we feel deep panic. Some of us feel guilty for not feeling more grateful for what we have in comparison to others that have a loss that seems more significant than our own. Some of us may believe that our fear means we are not trusting God enough. Or maybe some of us believe that we are trusting God as we try to push aside the chaos of the world and move about our daily routines.
Likely some of us feel a general sense of uneasiness with how we are responding. We wonder if there is a better way. Or we believe that we are reacting in the way that everyone should, and can’t understand why others are not responding the same way. But the truth is, your body’s response is the one that you are having. You are scared. You are sad. You are angry or irritated. You are dissociated. I daresay what this world, this nation, and our own bodies are experiencing is trauma. We are in personal and collective trauma. We are in the midst of chaos and suffering. So dear ones, perhaps the task in front of us is not to force ourselves to have a different response to the turmoil, but instead to care well for our bodies and hearts in the midst of it.
For those of us who are angry, perhaps we can see it as being a righteous anger at the injustice and chaos. Perhaps we can pay attention to where our energy guides us in joining the call of Spirit, bringing justice and healing to a broken land and systems.
For those of us who are trying to carry on as though nothing is different, perhaps we can wonder what feels irritating or threatening. Perhaps we can ask ourselves if we are afraid. Maybe we can vent to friends or journals and release the burden that we’re carrying.
For those of us who are white or in a privileged position, perhaps we can acknowledge that our neighbors, friends and loved ones with Asian faces are bearing the cost of racism, hatred, and fear during this time. Perhaps we can let ourselves weep for the additional layer of collective trauma that they are experiencing. Maybe we can check in with our neighbors and friends of color with an acknowledgment that we are with them. Perhaps we can have the courage to speak and act in their defense when we encounter the evils of racism in our own homes, stores, and social media feeds.
For those of us who are grieving and sad, perhaps we can let ourselves sink into that space without an expectation to feel differently. When we don’t have the strength to pray, perhaps our prayers can be a whisper of grace towards ourselves for the way that we couldn’t bear the weight today. Perhaps we can text one trusted person with the simple phrase: I’m sad.
For those of us who are afraid, perhaps we can light a candle. Play our favorite music for a late-winter evening. Rub lotion into the weary places. Curl up in our heaviest blankets and gently rock. Breathe in. Breathe out.
For those of us who are lonely, perhaps we can reach out through a text, a call, social media. It is so terrifying and courageous to let others see your loneliness. We need witnesses. They can’t take away the depth of your pain. But perhaps they can ease it just enough for you to be able to sleep tonight.
For those of us who are feeling trapped and our bodies are being reminded of past traumas, perhaps we can let our bodies shake. Maybe we can play music and dance in our living rooms. Perhaps we can go for a run or a walk outside and breathe the fresh air. Maybe we remind our bodies with simple phrases: I am here. Today is Thursday. I am loved.
Evil doesn’t have the final word, friends. And in the meantime, while it seems as though the chaos and collective grief grows greater by the day, let the ragged edges of your soul be continually mended by kindness.
We recognize that not everyone is in a safe home situation and social isolation may be raising serious concern for physical or emotional safety. If you or someone you know is in danger, the domestic abuse hotline is a good place to reach for help: 1800-799-7233.
If you are experiencing deep levels of fear or despair, are having thoughts of suicide, or are needing extra support, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1800-273-8255. It is free, confidential, and a good place to start if you are feeling lost or unsure about what to do, or scared of calling someone you know.