Thoughts on Getting Through a COVID-19 Winter

Now that we have weathered several seasons of life in a pandemic, many of us have settled into the anxiety a bit.  By now, most of us have given up countless get-togethers, forgone summer vacations or family reunions, and lost all kinds of previously taken-for-granted aspects of our day-to-day work or school lives.  We have become accustomed to a general sense of ambiguous loss that seems more and more familiar on a daily basis.  We have all lost so much.  And in September, as we passed the milestone of 200,000 American deaths from COVID-19, I felt an enormous grief as I reflected on the loss of all those lives and the millions of us who loved them.        

And winter is coming.

As we are now deep into autumn, I would urge us to go ahead and admit that a really tough winter may lie ahead.  So many of us have a very difficult time accepting things we do not wish to be true.  The concept of radical acceptance encourages us to accept our circumstances for what they are and to not fight against that which we cannot change.  During a worldwide health crisis, it is critically important to recognize that not accepting the unchangeable can bring on a great deal more suffering than accepting the painful reality of the moment.  Refusing to accept the truth does not make it any less true.  Accepting reality is particularly difficult when that reality is most painful.  When you attempt to avoid these emotions of sadness and pain, you only add suffering to the pain.  At times like this, it can be helpful to embrace the notion that it’s much easier to swim with the tide than against it.

As we look ahead to this winter, I am reflecting on the word, “Apricity,” a word and concept I love.  It means “the warmth of the sun in winter.”  This upcoming winter, we’re going to have to bundle up and go outside to feel the sun on our faces whenever we can.  We’re going to have to celebrate the weddings and the babies and the birthdays and the holidays, with just as much love in our hearts as we always did.  It will absolutely be bittersweet.  We will continue to feel some fear, as we still don’t understand so many things about this virus or how or when we’ll ever return to anything like “normal.”  We will continue to feel disappointment, as decades-long holidays traditions will be broken, as many of us will attempt to protect those we love by staying away from them.  We will continue to feel pain, as we will inevitably lose thousands more lives.  

Remember to keep looking for the joyful moments.  When winter is here and things feel dreary and bleak, remember to go out in the cold, even on the most frigid days and to turn your face toward the sun to catch the light.    

It is what it is.  It is what it is.  It is what it is.  

Paige Fegan, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist