VOICES: Our pandemic traumas are all different; no need to compare

Category:  Opinions
Friday, April 2nd, 2021 at 1:17 PM

Who do you feel has been the most impacted by COVID-19?

I think that’s an unfair question. Yes, the doctors work multiple 24-hour shifts and world leaders are panicking, but how could you compare that to a grieving family? On another entirely different level, students and children are missing once-in-a-lifetime experiences and parents have the added stress of becoming teachers and not bringing coronavirus home to their family. Who is to say one experience is worse than the other? Let’s see what makes them different instead.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals immediately became the face of the pandemic. They worked long shifts in overcrowded hospitals, breaching max capacity and with limited supplies. Death became commonplace. There have been over half a million COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC. The family and friends of the deceased will feel the primary grief, but healthcare professionals experience secondhand grief (vicarious bereavement). The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) describes this secondhand grief as internalizing grief until it changes perceptions and behavior. The volume of death and sometimes the suddenness can be contributing factors to feeling this. Both first and secondhand grief takes a toll on the human mind and eventually the physical body. The pandemic tossed a lot of people into grief.

Next would be the exhausted retail workers. I’ve worked in a grocery store since April 2020 — right at the start of the pandemic here in the U.S. It’s terrifying, and not just for the fear of getting sick, but also in seeing empty shelves that make it feel like we’re in some kind of apocalypse. The number of people I interacted with daily was insane. The number of surfaces I touched was immeasurable. Surely, I thought, this job would be the end of me. Retail workers logged seemingly endless days and were completely exhausted — not an ounce of energy left in our bodies. It’s a similar experience for everyone that worked in retail through the pandemic.

At this time, there were also graduating seniors in high school and college. Students lost prom, graduation, and the final moments with the people they grew up with. Many haven’t seen those people since. Students lost everything they were looking forward to. College students spend countless nights studying and stressing to pass their classes, along with spending enormous amounts of money to get their degree. They’re understandably upset when, say, graduation is pushed to a virtual ceremony. College seniors also lost everything they were looking forward to.

Students entering college were faced with a huge task: adapting to a college lifestyle whilst still being at home. They lost their college tours and welcome weekends and everything that makes the freshmen year memorable. How are they supposed to know if that college is truly right for them? Education (which can be given online) isn’t the only thing to consider when picking a college. The process of choosing a college will be much harder for those who can’t physically go to the campus and experience what life is like there.

Students’ experiences are nowhere near the fear doctors hold, but they still are going through their own, personalized trauma. Just because one is on another level doesn’t mean the smaller is any less of a problem. It all depends on the person and their own experiences. 

I cannot say who’s been most affected. Everyone had their stresses and their moments of complete dread. We shouldn’t say one way or another. The pandemic has been rough for everyone, and we are all looking forward to the day when we can see each others’ faces and hug our loved ones.

Stay safe and think of others.

Alexander Beatty is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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