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There’s really no rule book you must follow to live through a pandemic. Well, that’s because there are no rules—of course, barring certain protocols, including social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising at frequent intervals. As humans, it’s hard for us to live this way, devoid of all kinds of social interactions (albeit virtual ones). We don’t know what to feel, how to feel, and when to feel what! It’s true — our mind has gone into a tizzy, processing all the uncertainty we have to deal with. And that’s exactly what brings us to an important subject — we all have different coping mechanisms, and that’s absolutely fine.
A few weeks ago, when social media was inundated with oxygen and ventilator requests, the very thought of finding ‘personal happiness’ seemed rather selfish. Most of us were riddled with survivor’s guilt, and are probably still dealing with it, but here’s what you need to know – there’s nothing wrong in experiencing happiness; it doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ or ‘insensitive’ person in any way.
In agreement is Preeta Ganguli, a Gurgaon-based therapist and mental wellness consultant. She believes it is ‘natural’ to feel this way.
“As we see suffering, pain, and loss all around us, we are bound to feel guilty when we experience joy. Often this is attached with a doubt of being insensitive, lacking empathy, or not respecting one’s grief. This is NOT the case. Emotions do not come as standalone elements that we experience one at a time. Feeling sad does not mean there is no room for joy, and vice versa,” she says.
There’s no denying that most of us are experiencing sadness, grief and anger at this point. We aren’t in control of our circumstances, and that’s not a position we enjoy as humans. But guess what? Families are enjoying their time together and finding a sense of belonging, while friends are bonding virtually by hosting online parties. There are others who are trying to up-skill themselves, while some office-goers are relieved that they do not have to deal with hour-long traffic snarls. None of this is wrong, because well, these people are trying to find their ‘silver lining’. This is how they’re able to survive!
Ganguli believes it is perfectly normal to feel a range of emotions together, but at the same time, it is important to acknowledge whatever is coming up, instead of dismissing it.
“Further, grief is not a short-term experience. We are not going to be incredibly sad for a few days and then magically go back to being happy. It is important to give yourself the space to feel different emotions and acknowledge all that you’re feeling. Feeling happy during a pandemic is NOT a reflection of your empathy, grief or the respect for people’s suffering. It is in fact recommended to find pockets of joy. It is what helps us cope and move through this,” she explains.
Last but not the least, there are many people who are worried about being shamed. The fact that you want to put out that meme or share news about a promotion with a close friend does not make you tone deaf in any way. Other people may be quick to remind you that this isn’t what you must talk about during a pandemic, but you do you! Do what makes you happy or what you’re comfortable with — it’s all that matters. Yes, the reactions from others could make you feel guilty, but just take it with a pinch of salt.
Even if you feel guilty, consider it as a healthy emotion. Don’t try to fight your guilt; acknowledge it, process it and move on. Experts such that labeling your feelings can help in a big way.
Guilt almost always feels uncomfortable, and while you go through this, you might take some sudden steps to feel better; something that you might regret in the long run. That’s why take some time to reflect on your feelings, don’t be harsh on yourself and you’ll be fine.
It’s the time to be kind not just with others, but to yourself!