The Anniversary Effect of COVID-19A

A notification from my apartment to either give a 60 day notice or renew my lease, an email reminding me that my year long subscription was going to run out in a month, a notification to update my car insurance policy after a year…all these notifications were normal, but made me take a pause to remember what happened a year ago when I made these commitments. It was April of last year when the Coronavirus first made it’s appearance and March-May when lockdowns started. A flood of information poured into my life through my phone, car radio and T.V. like never before. Life would be different for a long time. I took a moment to reflect on these events happening and my chest tightened with anxiety. “That was a tough time for me,” I reminisced.

As I turned to look in the mirror, however, I felt a tremendous amount of affection for the person who stared back at me. It was the anniversary of the start of a very traumatic time, but I was not grieving. I was celebrating who I turned out to be through the hardships. I felt really surprised at these two reactions: remembering the trauma of COVID-19 in American in 2020 and feeling affection for the person who endured.

A traumatic event can be defined as “ an event in which a person or person perceives themselves or others as threatened by an external force that seeks to annihilate them and against which they are unable to resist and which overwhelms their capacity to cope,” (Jones, 2019). The onset of the Coronavirus was a widespread event that threatened lives and safety for many. An “anniversary effect” is a unique set of feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience. This can show up as irritation, sadness, crying spells, anxiety over the course of a day in which seems normal, but is on the day of a traumatic event/season in the past. This experience is common. It is your body and your mind telling you, “Hey! Remember that thing that happened before? That was not ok.” In order to heal from an “Anniversary Effect”, the survivor must process and make meaning of the past. Healing from trauma happens in three stages: The first task is to establish safety, the second task is remembrance and mourning, and the third stage is to reconnect with ordinary life (Hermann, 2015). Here are some tips for making meaning of the past and moving forward:

  • Accept where you are. Have grace for where you find yourself mentally
  • Make a list of everything you lost, that was hard and anxiety filled moments. Then, make a list of everything you gained.
  • Reassure yourself of the safety you have established for yourself
  • Tell your story to close friends and family in order to grieve and celebrate together
  • Decide how this event is going to propel you into the future you are working towards.
  • Recover physically. Go get a massage, go for a bike ride, lift some weights, etc…do what you can to minister to your physical body in order to reprogram your brain to associate good memories with the date.

Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech that only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars. COVID-19 was a frantic and dark time that we are still navigating as a nation and world. However, treasures like endurance, perseverance, problem-solving, and a good support system could not have been discovered without it.

Angelica Rivera is now accepting new clients at Serenity Wellness. You can reach her at (832) 409-7973 for a free consultation.

Resources: Herman, J. L. (2015). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence–from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.Jones, S. (2019). Trauma + grace: Theology in a ruptured world. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.King, M. L., & Washington, J. M. (1991). A testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: HarperOne.


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