Lifestyle Blog from the Philippines

Monday, April 13, 2020

Quarantine Thoughts: Survivor's Guilt

Quarantines have been happening all over the world due to the spread of the virus COVID 19. So many lives have been lost, with so many families unexpectedly losing people that they love without getting the chance to say goodbye. There are so many doctors and nurses worldwide bravely fighting to their deaths just to save the lives of others. So much sad news on TV. It's terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time. Sometimes it feels like all you can do now is pray that it all ends soon.

Watching the news and hearing about how the world outside has been throughout all this breaks my heart. Hospitals are full, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that can take you in right away if you are sick, COVID 19 or not. I have read countless stories of people who were sick with non-COVID diseases who have had to go to multiple hospitals just to seek treatment. Some were not even lucky to make it to one alive and, COVID or not, families are advised to cremate their loved one right away just to be sure. While I cannot blame hospitals for taking that precaution, it is still a devastating thing to deal with for the families.

Due to the high risk of infecting others, COVID-positive patients are isolated. In a way, the disease is not just a physical issue but also a mental one. As one survivor put it, you have to fight against the fear brought on by the isolation and not give up if you want to survive. 

I don't know if it's the same in other countries but here in the Philippines, if those patients die they are cremated right away. Their families see them alive one moment and in a container of ashes the next. It is a difficult thing to process, especially when there are cases where the surviving family is being treated unfairly by others due to the fear that they may have the virus themselves.

With the news that a vaccine may only be available as early as 18 months from now, things are certainly all up in the air in the meantime. Even if the lockdowns were to end, without a definite cure, without a vaccine, we are not safe. I know I say this often, but this has never rung true as much as it has these days: tomorrow is never promised. At this point, it seems all we can live for is today. 

One person shared online that during a peaceful and quiet moment, he felt this terror. He shared how his brain is trying to process all these mixed feelings from the uncertainty of the situation that he started to cry. It was comforting to know that there is someone out there who feels the same way.

I have been having mixed feelings about what is happening in the world right now. I feel this gratitude that my family is home and that we are safe. I am grateful that we are all healthy and together. I feel thankful that despite being one of those people with existing medical conditions that puts me at risk for the disease, I am still OK. But despite all that, there is also this fear over how my family will survive this quarantine if it stretches out longer than what we expect. I've already had conversations with people at work and there is a possibility that they will no longer be able to pay us if this goes on longer. Without any savings left, I can't help but wonder how my family can have enough to sail through this lockdown if I no longer have money from work to depend on.

When I watch the news, all my worries turn into massive guilt. In a way, I suppose I'm feeling some form of survivor's guilt about the whole situation. I find myself wondering how I can complain about money when there are so many people out there who have lost someone they love to this? How can I worry when I am still so much better off compared to other people whose income stopped completely when the lockdowns started? What are my concerns compared to those people in the healthcare/medical profession who have to see death regularly, risking their lives even when it feels that everything is hopeless? I am healthy. I am safe. Shouldn't that be enough?

My mother, who is a devout Catholic, has been leading us in daily prayers to save the world from COVID 19. We pray the rosary daily, and the "Oratio Imperata" at least three times a day. During these prayers, I find my thoughts drifting to those people who have been directly affected by this disease. I find myself thanking God for those people who carry on despite the circumstances. I thank the Lord for the inspiring people who have stepped up to help in whatever way they can. Again, that survivor's guilt creeps in when I have these thoughts.

During those prayers, I find myself apologizing that I haven't done anything to help except to stay home. I feel guilty that there has been nothing else that I have done to contribute except being at home and praying. I wish I could do more, not that there is anything else for me to do given the current state of my resources. While understandable, I still feel guilty all the same. 

As I've mentioned earlier, it's a mix of emotions. I feel so much gratitude since I have existing medical conditions that put me at risk for the virus and yet I am fine. I am happy about that but I feel guilty at the same time. Processing my feelings about the whole thing is a challenge, but as a friend of mine said, it's OK to just feel whatever I feel. None of us have been through anything like this before in our lifetimes. Whatever/however we feel is valid and should be acknowledged. Some of us compartmentalize, and that is fine. If that is how we can get through this, that's OK too. It's what we do or how we act on those feelings, be it now or later on, that needs a lot of thought.

Everything feels so uncertain. I have started to question the things that were important to me because so many things have suddenly felt trivial compared to the gravity of the situation we are all in. I feel that the world will never be the same after this. 

Whatever lesson God wants us to learn from all this, I hope that we take it to heart. I hope that it makes us all better people. I hope that we can ultimately end up in a better world for it. I hope that one day we can look back and remember that it took something like this to turn the world around for the better.

Hope. Faith. Prayers. Family. Health. Safety. That's all I have right now. Thankfully, right now, that is enough.

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