MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Hello, my name is Ashley and I’m a loser. Big or small, it’s safe to say we’ve all lost something
in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Losing important things (and people) can shake foundational beliefs about the way we thought life would be, and should be. When our current realities differ greatly from the expectations and fantasies we’ve held, it’s normal for us to experience disappointment, grief, and a loss of control.
A common reaction to this is comparing our experiences with others’. Unfortunately, this often leads to feelings of self-pity, vain attempts to establish “loss hierarchies”, corner the markets on sadness and disappointment, and ugly “one-upping” behavior.
These ineffective coping behaviors often represent our best attempts under difficult circumstances to secure the validation and sympathy we think we need in order to move forward. Regrettably, they often have the opposite of the intended effect, resulting in alienation and isolation from supporters.
If there’s anything we need less of during social distancing, it’s feelings of interpersonal isolation. People who feel lonely or isolated are more likely to perceive their losses and experiences as traumatic, and are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, and other negative outcomes.
Columbia University psychologist George Bonanno said, "When we experience grief, it's not just a random byproduct of loss, it's useful.”
If there’s a silver lining to our current situation, it’s the fact that we are all in it together. Research confirms that there are significant advantages to going through tough experiences as a community. Our collective capacity for empathy and our culture of unwavering commitments to wingmen and our missions hold enormous potential for effectively managing feelings of loss, and reaching out in pro-social ways to powerfully impact the lives of individuals in our communities.
We haven’t turned the corner on COVID-19 yet, and it will make “losers” of us all at some point. The sooner we accept this and learn to find value in our grief, the sooner we’ll be able to effectively tend to responsibilities linked to our Core Values - and become the winners and champions for those in our homes and communities who need us most.