Fourteen weeks ago, we just celebrated the holidays and were settling into January, when all of a sudden the word “Coronavirus” began to be heard daily in the news. Within just a few weeks, our lives were turned upside down and life stopped as we knew it. With a few strokes of the Governor’s pen, we were working from home, small and large businesses were closing and millions of students were attending school online. We were sheltered in place, restaurants, movie theatres and sporting events were closed. Untold numbers of workers were furloughed and suddenly filled with financial anxiety. The fear of paying mortgages, utilities and buying food was real. A myriad of tragedies and losses have occurred during this health crisis. Every person in this country has been negatively impacted. Our youth in particular have suffered during this time.
Coronavirus is a generational experience
Dr. Charleen Alderfer, LMFT, therapist and retired professor from The College of New Jersey remarked that this pandemic is a generational experience of loss and grief for our youth that were born post 9/11. This generation was born after the events of September 11, 2001 or were young toddlers. This group had no experience with an event that shook the entire world and created enormous misery across all borders.This generation was suddenly sent home from school. Sadly, many children went home to family environments that are filled with pain and abuse. For some children, the only respite they receive from this pain is their time at school. All sporting, music and club activities were cancelled. School dances, plays and parties were not held. Seniors in High School, College, Graduate and Professional Schools will not have their graduations, nor attend proms, parties and award ceremonies to memorialize their transition into the next phase of their lives. All of these cancellations, missed events and ceremonies as well as the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to friends, teachers, professors, coaches and mentors are losses for this young generation and need to be griefed in their own way.
Connections and Resilience
An opportunity exists for this generation to develop grit and resilience from this pandemic. Resiliency is a character trait that allows us to push through tough times and pick ourselves up when we are knocked down. Counselors and therapists often look to gauge the resiliency of their clients when addressing symptoms of depression, anxiety and traumatic experiences. Resiliency is the key for individuals to move forward, learn and develop strength from their losses and disappointments. The difference for many clients between seeing a glorious sunrise or a stormy morning is their level of resiliency. Counselors will tell you that resilience is a quality that is innate but is also acquired through the modeling and sharing of experiences from others. This generation has suffered disappointment, hurt and loss because of this pandemic and for some they are grieving the death of friends and family members. I believe our painful experiences and disappointments can become our greatest asset. Our youth can make a decision to use these experiences to grow, become stronger and more resilient for when the next disappointment in life occurs. An opportunity exists now for family members, friends, coaches, neighbors and community leaders to share their experiences and discuss with our youth on how they moved past and grew from their own small and large disappointments in life. Encourage and model to the young on how to pick yourself up and be persistent with the challenges that are ahead in life. Equally important, it is a time we can be more connected with the sharing of our life experiences with each other. The more connected we are, the stronger we are. Every connection we make is a step towards hope and a bridge to the future. We are all in this together with the possibility and opportunity to grow and become more resilient from this crisis.