COVID has taught the world a lesson in hope and what it feels like to have it stretched to the limit. In the early stages, we hoped the supply of toilet paper would not run out. As weeks turned to months, we hoped we could afford to keep our homes after losing jobs and financial stability. At the turn of a new year, many of us held onto hope for friends and family members in the hospital, many of whom would not come home. With so many disappointments and uncertainties, it is understandable how the hope we once felt might now dissolve into hopelessness with the fear that the world will never be what it once was and life will never again feel normal.
Is hope really gone when we have reached a breaking point? Hopelessness is often coupled with helplessness, which occurs when we feel we have exhausted all of our resources and just feel stuck. In truth, the presence of hopelessness is a pivotal opportunity for us to examine what might be causing it to stick around. When we feel terrible, we can develop tunnel vision and start to believe that these dark feelings will never go away. This makes perfect sense, especially after experiencing something so difficult for so long. This helplessness causes us to withdraw from others, from our normal routines, and to believe that nothing in our life will ever feel pleasurable again.
From a place of non-judgment and acceptance, ask yourself what you might be doing if you were not feeling hopeless at this time. Perhaps that might mean calling a friend, going for a hike, or starting a hobby you have been meaning to for some time. Even in our lowest moments, we have the opportunity to adjust our thoughts and behaviors, which may, in turn, lead us to connection with others and the world around us as opposed to withdrawal and isolation. These brave efforts give the opportunity for that hope to be restored when we realize we have come through so much difficulty and can still create beauty on the other side.
As counselors, we are here to be present with you in the heartache while simultaneously holding hope with you. Believing things can be different is hard work and does not happen overnight, but the small efforts you take each day to confront the hopeless and helpless feelings may help you find a new outlook and restored hopefulness for the future.