Dr Jeofrey Mtemeri
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought along with it uncertainties among many people across the whole world. The uncertainties include worries on the unpredictability of what the future holds in terms of employment, financial stability, children’s education and business.
Meaninglessness and despair hoover around the entirety of the universe. So many people would be in financial dire straits caused by COVID 19 induced shut downs of both formal and informal businesses.
Many businesses, for instance, would experience huge losses. Imagine a farmer whose cash crop was ready for harvest and ready for the market and all of a sudden, he/she realises that he/she can’t reach out to customers because of the lockdown. Twenty one days are a long period to wait for such farmers. Needless to say, people are busy counting the losses. Despite all these challenges, let us remain positive and proceed to plan B to minimise the losses. Don’t lose hope. Some vegetables, for instance, can be dried and sold later. This can salvage the situation to some extent. An old adage says half a loaf is better than nothing.
People are free agents as espoused by the existentialists. They are free to make choices that define their lives. They are rational beings even in times of plagues and pandemics. Your future lies entirely in your hands. Make do with what surrounds you and make the best out of the lockdown time. Try to think outside the box. You can start on a project whilst you are in such kind of detentions. Think of Nelson Mandela and many other freedom fighters who were in prison for a long period of time. Instead of doing nothing and mourning about their detention, they started writing books or further their education. These acts show the invincibility of hope even in the most trying times of people’s lives. In other words, instead of folding hands and counting the losses, people should be motivated by the fact that they are the masters of their destiny. This is an existential philosophy that people can make meaningful choices even in the middle of uncertainties. Make the best out of your helplessness and hopelessness. For example those with machines such as computers, sewing machines, welding machines and other gadgets can make use of the time as the sun will rise and shine again.
Most people have no time to be with their families as they are always busy trying to make ends meet. This is unfortunate because, according to Denise Witmer, spending time together is one of the greatest gifts families can give to one another. Research has also proven that strong family bonds encourage good behaviour in children, improve academic performance and strengthen family coherence. Thus, if you have had little time with your family, take the lockdown as a time to create or recreate a formidable bond with your family. Learn from your spouse or children. Your family is important as they are the ones who are at your disposal to give you counsel that you require to get rid of depression, stress, anxiety and other disorders that can be caused by the lockdown. This might also be the time you and your children are together this long. Be the role model that you can possibly be. Children learn through experiences and modelling from their immediate environment. In other words, children learn vicariously from those they value the most. Sit together as a family, possibly around the dinner table and eat as a family. Cell phones and other electrical gadgets like televisions must be switched off. You don’t want to divide the family attention. This will strengthen the family bond and family cohesiveness.
Be patient as the heyday will be back. Remember this is not the first pandemic that has affected the world. As far back as 430BC, there was The Plague of Athens which lasted about five years and killed over 100 000 people. The black death from 1346-1353. This pandemic wiped over half of Europe’s population. Mass graves were the solution to the overwhelming death and burial of the dead caused by the pandemic. The London plague around 1665 killed over 100 000 people. The 2009 influenza pandemic which was caused by H1N1 virus killed over 100 000 people. All of these are now history so shall be COVID-19, it will pass. So let’s not be devastated by this as it will also pass just like other past pandemics.
Some people have already lost or shall lose their loved ones due to the coronavirus. The grief that shall be caused by this pandemic may be unbearable. Such people need to be assisted so that they cope with heartbreaks. Countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Britain who have so far lost many lives due to COVID-19 need to be assisted during their time of mourning. People are buried in mass graves and sometimes in the absence of their relatives. This has a ripple and devastating effect on the surviving members of the family. Their grieving would be a combination of anger and confusion. Absence of funeral rituals may be catastrophic in a way. According to Michelle Drouin, funeral rituals are important parts of grieving where people are reconciled with the deceased.
In Africa and other parts of the world, veneration of the dead is very important. Sacrifices and prayers are done to appease the dead. The absence of such ceremonies may create a void between the dead and the living hence, people may dwell in mourning longer than expected. There is still an attachment between the dead and the living. Both African traditional religion and Christianity have some common understanding of the dead such as dressing the dead, body viewing, visiting the graves early in the morning and sometimes holding ceremonies after some time. These ceremonies are part of mourning. If all these are not done it creates a void that would require psychotherapy. Counselling centres need to be created to help those who did not mourn their loved ones properly. Churches must come in as support groups to help the nations in mourning. There is always a life even after the death of the most loved ones.
The outbreak of COVID-19 should be taken as a wakeup call for nations to prepare for such eventualities in future. So many nations were found with their pants down with very little resources to fight the disease. Health facilities were not in good shape despite having some infrastructure in place.
There is always light at the end of every tunnel. Being exposed to such dreadful scenarios should help us prepare for the future. Let us remain vigilant and positive in anticipation of the brighter future. With time, the wounds will always heal. The businesses that we would have lost during the lockdown will slowly pick up and perhaps thrive or improve because of the timeout that was made possible by the shutdown.
People’s way of life was severely affected as they did not have enough food to sustain them during the 3 week long lockdown. Families may have been divided as a result of misunderstandings that were caused by shortages. Healing of such families may be necessary after the COVID-19 pandemic. Government, private sector, churches and all concerned individuals should put resources together to give psychosocial support and psychoeducation to all the affected.
The COVID-19 impact, so far, is not as devastating as in other countries such as Italy and Spain. However, people must continue to observe preventive methods beyond the shutdown. Such pandemics do not just disappear all of a sudden but will slowly disappear in the fullness of time. Bathing, washing of hands, use of detergents, maintaining social distance and avoiding shaking of hands must be maintained for some time. Let us be positive and wait in anticipation of the brighter future. Every dark cloud has a silver lining and reports of containment of the pandemic in China and signs of the slowing rates of infection and deaths in worst hit countries such as Italy and Spain are encouraging.
Jeofrey Mtemeri (PhD)
Department of Psychology
Great Zimbabwe University (GZU)