Tali Raviv, PhD
Midwest Regional Site Co-Director
The other day, a photo from early in the pandemic popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, and I was caught off guard. I spent the remainder of that day feeling a mixture of sadness, gratitude, and anxiety as I reflected on what I, and so many others, have lost.
It’s been a little over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools and businesses and changed many people’s lives in ways large and small. This type of “anniversary” is not the type celebrated with a toast and gifts of “paper” or “silver.” It is instead a time to reflect on what we have lost.
Many of us have lost loved ones. Worldwide, an estimated 2.85 million people have died. In the US, that number stands at a staggering 555,000. Many of us have lost the opportunity to see and hug loved ones, as social contact and travel have been restricted. 74 million children and adolescents in the US have lost months of schooling. Remote learning has not met the needs of many children, especially those who are differently abled, lack resources to engage, or are otherwise marginalized. And many families are feeling the extended financial impact of lost or reduced employment.
However, even as we take the time to reflect on what we have lost, anniversaries can also be a time to reflect on what we have learned.
Relationships: While we knew it before, the way the pandemic has disrupted relationships has helped us realize and appreciate their importance on a new level. Many of us were able to re-think and re-imagine the important relationships in our life, finding new ways to connect despite physical distance. In the early days of the pandemic, things like neighborhood sing-a-longs and applause for front-line workers were creative ways to combat isolation and create a sense of community despite the physical distance.
Creativity: As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. No one knows this better than our educators, who have demonstrated incredible creativity as they experimented with different ways of connecting with students and teaching via virtual platforms overnight.
Power of Schools: Schools have long served as a major access point not only for learning and social interaction, but also for students' basic needs including food, health care, and mental health services. School closures brought the critical importance of schools into sharp focus, and it is now incumbent upon us to re-think the ways schools can support student and community healing as we enter into the next phase of the pandemic.
Anti-racism Cannot Wait: The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racially marginalized youth and youth living in poverty is attributable to the effects of systemic racism and ensuing structural inequities such as under-resourcing of communities of color. The racial uprisings that swept the nation in response to police brutality have also laid bare the enduring effect of racism in our country and on our youth. Anti-racist education and policies are a social justice imperative.
Mental Health is Essential: COVID-19 has brought about a fundamental shift in our society. Suddenly, rather than being talked about in whispers or included as an afterthought, mental health is front and center in the national conversation. Now is the time to integrate mental health supports and well-being initiatives into the fabric of educational and economic policies.
If you or a loved one is experiencing distress as a result of an anniversary of the death of a loved one or another traumatic event, below are resources that may be helpful.