What have you lost?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


Bereavement, grief and loss.
Picture courtesy of pixabay.

We have lost more to the coronavirus than we may realize.

Real, profound losses don’t heal in an instant. The losses from coronavirus continue to add up. I suspect it’s going to be a long time before we, as a society, feel the full impact of those losses. Some of those losses we can attribute directly to the virus. But other losses will linger and won’t be fully recognized for a long time to come.

The most obvious loss is the people who have died.

If one of your family members, or someone close to you, has passed, you are no doubt feeling it acutely right now. Beyond the close personal family, we have all lost people who were supposed to be our safety net. The losses of doctors and nurses, first responders, the firemen, the police, the ambulance drivers, those losses will continue to affect us for a considerable time. Will people rush to fill those gaps? Or will more people avoid those professions as simply too risky for them and their families?

The fact that our death toll from the coronavirus has now exceeded that of any other country should give us a reason for concern. Despite China’s larger population, our losses have been higher. I’m sure there will be some who will try to obscure this fact by suggesting that the reporting of deaths in China were inaccurate. I think we already know, or should know, that we probably underestimated the American death toll also. The lack of adequate testing has undoubtedly resulted in a substantial number of deaths from the coronavirus, which were attributed to pneumonia, or other underlying medical issues.

We have lost our sense of safety.

Our sense of safety as a society has been eroding for a long time. Attending large gatherings has become increasingly dangerous. The repeated shooting at schools and public get-togethers has been met with discussions about how to identify the crazy people before they do it, even though most of those shooters did not have a serious or persistent mental illness. Trainings in the schools and public places for active shooter situations suggested to us that if we learned enough, it couldn’t happen to us. No amount of knowledge is going to protect us from these repeated occurrences if we, together as a society, do not attack the causes.

I’m inclined to think that the current coronavirus crisis, as serious and tragic as it is, has allowed us to take our eyes off the real, long-term dangers in our society. The fundamental premise of our capitalist society is that things, and the profits of businesses, matter more than people. We can afford billions for ventilators, and even more billions poured into the financial markets. Still, our spending on things like advanced education, and public health, are a much lower priority.

If we were realistic, we might compare the current losses from the coronavirus to the 1,400,000 people who died as a result of firearms over a 50-year period. Every year large numbers of people in our society died from treatable illnesses.

The belief that the elderly are being cared for has been shattered.

For a very long time, we’ve not paid attention to the plight of seniors in nursing homes and memory care facilities. Whenever a story comes up across the news about seniors abandoned or left with inadequate care, we look for someone to blame as if this is the abnormality. The low level of funding for most senior care facilities has left those people housed there chronically vulnerable. During this coronavirus episode, those care facilities have turned into killing fields.

Some dying businesses can’t be resuscitated.

Healthy businesses will struggle for a long time. Social distancing and avoiding large gatherings have reduced the spread of coronavirus. It’s likely there are a lot of people in the population who have not yet been infected. We also know there are asymptomatic carriers. How willing will you be to book a cruise, take your children to a crowded movie theater, or return to other crowded activities when businesses try to reopen for business as usual?

Will some of the efforts to revive the economy cause lasting harm?

I hope you been paying attention to the way in which interest rates have been hammered down to close to zero over the last few years. We should be asking ourselves who that benefits and who that harms. The principal beneficiaries are the large banks and corporate businesses. Their existence is predicated on the belief that there can be no limits to how large they can grow and how vast the profits will be.

Who have low interest rates harmed?

One significant impact of the low interest rates has been a reduction in the income of pension plans. Most pension plans were already inadequately funded. With lower rates of return on their investments, those plans have just begun to chase riskier and riskier investments. One potential outcome of this development, and a consequence we are already seeing, is pension plans cutting their benefits or, in some cases eliminating them altogether.

Social Security is expected to run out of money in the not-too-distant future. Social Security has always been predicated on the idea that in the future, there will be more workers making larger salaries paying into the system. Past surpluses were invested in buying government debt, which was supposed to pay an interest rate into the Social Security fund. Those surpluses are gone now, spent by the ever-growing federal budget, and the interest rates have fallen to near zero.

Saving for your old age was once considered a virtue. While having a safety net of savings is still an excellent idea, the idea that your savings could earn a rate of return that made your retirement years more secure has proven to be a mirage.

Will the jobs lost to the coronavirus distancing ever return?

The long-term consequences for where we work, where we shop, and how we get our education are extremely unclear at this point. The idea that we can wave a magic wand, dump trillions of federal dollars into the economy, and suddenly everyone will be working again, happy and secure in the knowledge that their government will provide for them right up until the time they die. That notion may turn out to be the party on the Titanic rather than the lifeboat for a sinking economy.

I suspect many of you are feeling uncertainty and loss in many parts of your life. The list of losses I’ve detailed is probably the short version, and I have missed many others. How is the coronavirus episode affected you? What losses have you experienced?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

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