Thankfulness, gratefulness, positivity, positive psychology, stress relief, meditation, nature
As I begin my day and prepare to see clients (online - is anyone going into a physical office these days?), I'm thinking about how grateful I am for this new day. Where I live, it's pouring rain and my weather app says it's going to rain all day. It's only about 55 degrees, but I've got a wool sweater on so I can leave the door open to listen to the rain and breathe in its fresh scent. I've already finished my morning ritual - a fresh pot of coffee, writing in my journal, seeking Spirit's guidance for today. And reading the New York Times headlines. And watching the BBC News. One of the stories today was about how coronavirus could impact developing countries, whose health care systems are terribly underfunded and overloaded under normal circumstances. And then I started thinking about friends and former work colleagues in Ghana, West Africa where I spent a few years of my life doing humanitarian work. Thinking about their fear as they face this potentially devastating illness....
And then I thought about how fortunate I am to be living in a part of the world where I can social distance, continue working, have access to food and fresh water.... And that brings me to what I wanted to write about today - survivor guilt.
I'm guessing the vast majority of us are following the news these days, and most of us are following the news too closely. We see the statistics, the infection rate and the death rate in our community and around our country and the world. We see the images of the makeshift morgues and mass graves. It's horrifying. Maybe our own family has been touched by illness or death, or we've got an elderly relative in a nursing home who doesn't understand why no one is visiting, or a friend struggling to manage at home with an out of control child. We feel helpless.
And our therapist is telling us to focus on ourselves - be mindful - be grateful!?! How are we supposed to do that when all these horrible things are happening out there in the world, or right here at home? How are we supposed to be grateful, when others are experiencing such devastation?
It's a similar feeling when someone's house survives the forest fire that wiped out the rest of the neighborhood - the soldier is unhurt after the explosion that killed her friends - the family watches as the car in back of them on the highway is hit head-on....
It's a mark of empathy that we can feel "survivor guilt" - the key is to hold both feelings simultaneously. To recognize and deeply feel sadness about what has happened to someone else, while at the same time feeling grateful for our own well-being. They don't need to be mutually exclusive. We can't change what happened, or is currently happening to others by degrading what's positive in our own lives. Instead of harboring that sense of guilt, we can take action. We can check on our elderly neighbors, sew cloth face masks and donate them to a homeless shelter, write thoughtful notes to nursing home residents. I've heard of so many wonderful volunteer efforts in our communities. You can go online to get ideas.
So allow yourself to let go of survivor guilt today. Here is a short meditation - do it outdoors if you can.