Tom Hanks and how to work through what we have all lost with Covid-19

I watched the new Tom Hanks movie (News of the World) last night. Whilst there was a little too much melodrama and saccharin in that cup of tea for me, something he said struck a chord. Speaking in the context of the aftermath of the tragedy that was the American Civil War and the death of his wife, he said, with great empathy, “everyone is hurting out there now”.

I think what he said refers equally to what is happening to us all now with Covid-19. We are all affected in some way or other. We have all lost something – perhaps it is a loss of connection with someone we love; perhaps a loss of work, play, the opportunity to travel etc. But what can we do for ourselves and others in these most challenging of times? I will offer you some ways to reflect on the challenge you face and some ways to solve your own unique problem at this most challenging of times.

Telling it as it is

My own connection with Covid-19 is that I am unable to get to see a dear family member and we have not met in eighteen months. And, to complicate things, she lives on the other side of the world and I do not expect to be able to get to see her ‘in-person’ for another year. Whilst Zoom and the like is great, it’s simply not the same as a good hug. I might say to people “Ah sure, I’m getting on with it” and leave it like that. Or “I’m resilient and I can manage, I’m not going to moan”. The truth is that it is exceedingly difficult at times for me with my own sense of loss, but its impact is diminished in the speaking to others who care for me. Going back to what Tom Hanks said, I’m getting on with it but the truth is that I am hurting.

Why do I feel this loss?

The bottom line is that this person is my only child. She is growing up fast, without me, almost fourteen years of age when (I think!) she would benefit from having her dad around. It makes me feel sad. My mind immediately thinks about the fact that some of the people reading this article will have experienced the death of a loved one, and I then think why should I complain? – there are others who are worse off. But I know that it is ok for me to say that I have deep feelings about this loss of connection and the loss of opportunity to be in each other’s company. But there is absolutely nothing I can do, and it is frustrating.

The importance of Resilience

One thing that helps me to deal with the loss is my resilience. There is a certain amount of it that is innate to me, a personality trait built on my response to adversity if you will. But it is also constructed via my connection with friends, family and community. I draw on them a lot – lots of virtual meetings. Lots of me initiating contacts via email, social media, talking to people on the street, taking an interest in what people are saying.

Listening attentively

But one thing I have started to do more of these days is listening to what people say about how they are and, equally importantly, what I imagine they are not saying. If we are all experiencing loss, then not only has somebody got something to say about how Covid is affecting them, but it is important that I leave open the space to for them to say what it is they may wish to say. So, silence might be the best gift you can offer to someone who is, as our hero Tom Hanks so poignantly says, really hurting. Things are never said until they are said.

The challenge of not knowing – anxiety lurks

My last point is that there is a lot of anxiety out there and it is extremely easy to understand why it is the case. It was only yesterday that an EU chief said that Covid-19 is never going away. It is going to be like other public health crises such as AIDS, Ebola, TB etc which have not been eliminated. And it is easy to understand why this makes us feel out of control and fearful for what is around the corner. But we still must find a way an effective way to manage this enormous challenge.

A Call to Action – Reach Out, Now!

We are at a critical point in the Covid-19 journey in this country. Please reach out to others in your family and your community. Be generous with those who may be struggling – give them time to speak their truth and tell them your truth in return. It will mean a lot and it will make a great difference.

I recommend to anybody who is struggling to make reach out to mental health service providers who, in many cases, offer both full and reduced fee counselling and therapy. And look for help yourself should you need it – and contact the mental health service professionals in places such as the  if you have gotten to breaking point and need to speak out what is in your head. It will not be long now until we recover and make sense of what we have all lost – and we will get there with help from the people who love us. And, like Tom Hanks, whilst we will still be hurting, we will move on.

My name is Tom Conlon. I am a psychoanalyst working with adults and adolescents. My work involves listening to the stories of those who experience and process loss in their own way – i.e. anxiety, stress, depression, melancholia, trauma, PTSD, eating disorders, addiction etc)

Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash