Surviving a Life-Changing Event

We are living in a new reality. Nothing is the same as it used to be. The simple pleasure of bumping into an old friend and giving that person a hug is risky business. Going to a movie or a concert or a crowded restaurant feels like going into a germ factory. Sending our children off to school assuming they will still be safe and healthy at the end of the day is no longer assured. Imagining that we and our elderly parents are in no immediate danger of dying means we are not keeping up with the news.

Unless you were born yesterday, you have experienced the current pandemic up close and personal and found your world turned upside down. Over the course of the last eighteen months, you have most likely stayed sequestered in your home, worn a mask if you came in contact with another human being, ordered your groceries online and had them delivered, disinfected your entire house, found yourself working from home (if that was possible), and home-schooled your children (if you even knew how to do that), while Covid-19 tore through the country and took 674,000 lives as of today.

Information—about mask mandates and anti-maskers, scientifically approved vaccines and anti-vaxers, governors who follow all CDC rules and governors who make their own rules—changes by the day. What are we to believe, and how are we to cope with this dizzying speed of change? For a while, we all thought things would return to “normal,” but after a year and a half of tumult and deaths, we are beginning to realize it probably never will. We are hearing that Covid is here to stay, and we had better get used to it.

It is too awful to contemplate, we think. But there were many events in history that were also too awful to contemplate. The Holocaust was perhaps the worst. Millions died, but we expect people to die in wars. What we did not expect was that many more millions would be savagely murdered, eliminating two out of three of Europe’s 9.5 million Jews. Most of the surviving remnant of European Jewry left Europe and settled elsewhere.

Those caught in this nightmare lost everything—their possessions, their families, their personhood, and their lives. They were trapped in a situation over which they had no control, power, or influence. A man named Victor Frankl—an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor—believed that in any circumstance, no matter how dreadful, people do have a choice. He wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves. While we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” His book, Man’s Search for Meaning is considered one of the ten most influential books in America. At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning, had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.