Now what? For me, this pandemic started by the end of February. I had already bought a box of masks and one of gloves, both for me and my 90 year old mom. I found two bottles of hand sanitizer, again for each of us, and two of Clorox wipes. I had already spoken with my kids, one with a newborn, the other with a preschooler, and, fortunately, found that they were a step ahead of me. I had sounded the alarm for the safety of staff and families at COPE and Adam Rabinovitch, our executive director, and Michelle Graff, LCSW, our clinical director, flew into action.
Our board met quickly and by the time everything seemed to shut down, we had made most of the decisions and strategic plans, hoping they were sufficient for what was to come.
But now what? Do we go back to open groups, sitting close to our fellow COPE members, holding the hand of a distraught parent? Do we go full steam ahead on our fall fundraisers?
Do we hug?
I know the feeling of wanting things to go back to normal…or what they used to be. Familiar feels good because that is what routine always does for us…..it is what we expect and are comfortable with. But we are rife with multiple disruptions in many of the things in our lives that have been familiar.
Can we imagine sitting in a crowded theater, where it seems that we always sit in front of the person with a hacking cough? How about getting our morning coffee and the customer behind us puts an arm over our shoulder, saying, “Hey, that one is mine.” How about a packed train or LIRR car? Some things may never go back to what was familiar. We need to prepare for that.
And that brings us to another upheaval in our society—the overarching need to recognize, and not avoid, the consequences of racial bias and disparities. There is one issue that has particular meaning for COPE. A beautiful young woman was interviewed on TV in the first few days of the protests. It was a quiet, peaceful march and she spoke about her hopes for the future. But she cried when she said, “I am afraid to have children who may be killed because of the color of their skin.” She wasn’t much more than a kid herself, and I started to cry, too. I don’t think there is a bereaved parent who wouldn’t.
At COPE, tears have no color. Our connection to other bereaved parents and siblings is so deep that it goes above and beyond all other differences. We have all stood by a graveside, stunned by shock, sick with crippling grief.
At COPE, let’s redefine a new normal that keeps us safe and healthy and gives all of us the best hope for a better new future.