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If a Global Pandemic Couldn't Bring us Together, Maybe Nothing Can

We are all currently living in this fucked-up, dystopian reality that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. After living through two years of a global pandemic, everyone is exhausted. We have collectively reached our breaking point, and have to plod on through life anyway.

When did things start to go wrong? When did people stop caring about each other?

As an older Millennial, I feel like the world has just been going continuously down hill for my entire lifetime. Maybe if you are Gen-X or a Boomer, you remember a time when things were generally good for most people. The younger generations don’t have that luxury. All we have known is a lifetime of struggle.

And we are tired.

The pandemic was a collective trauma to our shared psyche. We have all endured more pain in the last two years than most people experience in a lifetime. Watching helplessly as the numbers of infected and deceased rose and rose again has scarred us in unimaginable ways.

Compassion Fatigue

As we all struggled through quarantine essentially alone, we became more isolated and more afraid than we have ever been. At some point, I think all of us just switched off the news as we struggled to get through another day.

People lost loved ones, they lost their jobs and their homes. Many of us were sick ourselves and had to spend weeks in a sickbed and in quarantine for fear of infecting others.

Those with preexisting health conditions suffered more than others, as they had to rigidly adhere to ever-changing guidelines to keep themselves safe.

The more we struggled ourselves, the less empathy and compassion we had left to give to those around us. People simply stopped caring, because we stopped having the emotional bandwidth to do so.

According to WebMD,

Compassion fatigue is a term that describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others — often through experiences of stress or trauma. Compassion fatigue is often mistaken for burnout, which is a cumulative sense of fatigue or dissatisfaction.
While burnout is one part of this form of fatigue, the term compassion fatigue encompasses a more specific experience, which may be brought about by a stressful workplace or environment, lack of resources, or excessive hours.

Doctors and nurses experienced this compassion fatigue first, since they were working on the front-lines of the pandemic. Many so much so that they have left helping professions. We have seen this with therapists too, as many left the profession due to increased case loads due to people suffering trauma from the pandemic.

But, at some point, compassion fatigue hit all of us. We stopped being able to empathize with anyone else, or care about their suffering, because we were all too full of our own pain. We stopped caring about others. We stopped caring about social justice or equity.

We have been in survival mode for too long, struggling just to stay alive.

According to Very Well Mind,

This waning empathy is called compassion fatigue, a term that was initially attributed to those in helping professions but now, after two years of a pandemic, has become a mainstream phenomenon.

Everyone is running on empty. We spent all this time living in fear and witnessing terrible things happening. We are simply exhausted. And yet, through it all, we weren’t given a break. Everyone is expected to just keep on working and going through the motions as if nothing had happened at all.

There wasn’t time to be able to stop and grieve our collective loss. And we need more than a moment of silence to regain our bearings again. Most companies only give you five days off if a loved one dies, and on average grief only starts to abate after six months. No one had enough time to grieve. I think the pandemic has broken us.

We could have come together

Although our shared hurt, fear and hopelessness could have brought us together, it only split us farther apart. States and countries closed their borders. There became a political divide about wearing a mask. The desire to keep yourself and others safe became a political statement instead of a necessity.

If we had worked together from the beginning to stop the virus, instead of trying to keep everything open as long as possible to maximize profits, maybe the pandemic could have been brought under control sooner.

There was so much that could have been done differently, both on a large scale and by individuals. But people didn’t care.

Healing compassion fatigue

In order for our world to move forward post-pandemic, instead of just pretending nothing has happened, we need to heal our collective compassion fatigue. We need to rest and reset individually. We need to find our sense of empathy again.

According to the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute, you can heal compassion fatigue by:






We all need to take some time for inner healing. You can do this on a daily basis by taking time for self-care, and making sure to do things that allow you to rest and replenish yourself. Self-care has never been so important.

By learning how to take care of ourselves again, we can recharge our mental batteries to be able to find empathy and compassion for each other again.

It may take some time for all of us to individually and collectively recover from the compassion fatigue caused by the pandemic. Many of us are still struggling with difficult issues today, and that can exacerbate the problems.

However, if you make sure to set aside some extra time every day for self-care, it can really make a difference in your inner world, your recovery, and your mental health.

If you feel like you are struggling to bounce back on your own, you may also want to consider seeing a therapist or life coach who can help you learn coping skills to get back on track.

Healing for our world

Once we are able to heal on an individual level, we can start healing the scars in our world that have been left by the pandemic. Many of us are still mourning for lost loved ones in the aftermath of the pandemic. Some are struggling to find new jobs or housing, and paying medical bills.

As we fight through these issues, we need to come together again, and build a more compassionate and caring world. We need to build a stronger social safety net, so that so many people aren’t falling through the cracks.

In the US, we need a better medical system, where people can receive care without having to worry about going bankrupt or starting a Go-Fund-Me to do so.

According to The Hill,

If you follow the news or your social media feed, you know that crowdsourcing medical expenses is increasingly popular for financing health care costs. In fact, you might have contributed to one; 22 percent of American adults report donating to GoFundMe medical campaigns. As of 2021, approximately $650 million, or about one-third of all funds raised by GoFundMe, went to medical campaigns. That staggering amount of money highlights how dysfunctional our health care system is, forcing people to resort to crowdsourcing to afford their medical care — but it’s not surprising. In the United States, 62 percent of bankruptcies are related to medical costs. This should be a wake-up call to address and reform the system further.

People shouldn’t have to crowd-fund just to be able to go to the doctor so that they can live. Everyone in America deserves equal access to healthcare. Other countries like Canada and Germany have successfully implemented public healthcare systems. The US could follow suit.

We need to become a more compassionate and caring world, where inequalities like this aren’t going unaddressed. Our world and our society needs to learn to care more, help more, and do more for all our citizens.

There is only so much we can do to help on an individual level. Humans are social beings, and as such, we need to build a society that is better for everyone, so that people aren’t struggling so badly and going from personal crisis to personal crisis.

Many of the problems that we face on a world level are solvable. It would just take valuing compassion for all above profits for some.

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