Dr. Chavi Karkowsky is an obstetrician in New York City. In a recent article in The Atlantic entitled “Vaccine Refusers Risk Compassion Fatigue,” she writes about her experience as a health care worker, who alongside others

suffered through a terrible year and a half—a period first defined by a lack of masks and gloves, and throughout by the very real fear of personal sickness and death. We have been afraid of bringing the disease home, of infecting our spouses, of leaving our children parentless. For about three months, I didn’t kiss my children.

After she was vaccinated her relief was palpable.

Science had brought us a solution, and we could finally see the end of all those months of fear, exhaustion, and sacrifice.

But infection rates keep rising.  COVID-19 hasn’t ended.  The Delta variant has taken hold, and hospitals have filled up again. She writes:

…this time the suffering seems different, because it is avoidable. Optional. A choice… Unlike during the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic, the current upsurge of suffering isn’t one that humanity has to go through. People are choosing it.

It’s no surprise that compassion fatigue has silently gestated during these last 18 months.  Health care workers have had their care and compassion both continually demanded and dismissed.

Compassion fatigue grips us all.  My colleague Brittany Porch blogged about her experience last week.  She shared the words she uses to center herself in her deepest values, “I want to feel compassion and I want to be compassionate toward others.”

These days we’re mired in the pandemic, holding memories of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, carrying images from Haiti and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, along with fires throughout our western states.  We’re hearing stories of women and girls in Afghanistan as well as in the state of Texas.  Plus, all the details of our personal lives and the lives of those we love.  Added together, well, it’s a lot to carry.

So, what do we do with all of this weighing on our shoulders?

It may be cold comfort to know you’re not alone, but I’m going to say it anyway.  You’re not alone.  We’re all trying to manage the unmanageable.  We’re carrying heavy loads.  Whatever the burden, faith invites us to set it down.  To put it down and share it with God.  To breathe deeply…to inhale grace and mercy, to exhale fear and anxiety.  To inhale unconditional love and acceptance, to exhale criticism and self-judgment.

God invites you to breathe.  To simply be.  You can set down your burden for a while.  And fill your lungs and empty them.  God breathes with your spirit, in your compassion fatigue.  God doesn’t promise to fix you. Instead, God promises to be with you.  God is with you.

These days, how is compassion fatigue showing up in your life?


-Written by Rev. Ann Palmerton



“Vaccine Refusers Risk Compassion Fatigue” by Dr. Chavi Karkowsky


  1. Martha Campbell September 23, 2021 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I too struggle with another type of compassion fatigue with those who refuse to be vaccinated. However I try to remember that I became among the first to be to be vaccinated because I live in a senior living community and the state prioritized our vaccination. Still, refusing something that will save your live is so irrational. I try to remember people are subject to false rumors by those who stand to make money or by those who have limited understanding of science and on and on. So I pray for humility and compassion for those who don’t see the world as I do.

  2. Claire Folts September 23, 2021 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I am really struggling with this right now. This week we had an angry mob of parents escorted by police from the school board meeting. They are angry because my schools are requiring their children to wear a mask. The mandate was put in place after absences due to Covid cases and the resultant exposures reached more than 300 students at a time district wide. I must admit, I am having trouble seeing the angry parents’ side.
    I’m an elementary music teacher and from March-June of 2020 I figured out how to create a YouTube channel, learned how to use flipgrid, became an expert at Zoom, and created 30 Google classrooms for each elementary class I teach. For the 2020-2021 school year, I redid my entire curriculum and included drums, xylophones, dances, cups, rhythm sticks, and buckets that I sanitized between every class–anything instrumental to replace the singing I could no longer safely do in person with my students. For the first two weeks of school this year I was tied in anxious knots because my students weren’t wearing masks, and I couldn’t keep them the required 6 feet apart due to the spatial limits of my room, so we went outside. ALL of this to keep my students safe. I have worked so hard, yet parents protest the easy work of sending their child to school with a mask? I don’t understand, and I am so, so, so tired.
    I fear I will take out my frustration with the parents on my students. But when I succumb to that temptation is when I need to leave teaching. It isn’t my students’ fault. They just want to be back in school. So I breathe, I accept hugs from 5 year olds, I bang on drums, and I make sure all of my lesson plans have at least one activity designed solely to make my students and myself laugh. It’s all I know to do!

  3. Annette Kuss September 25, 2021 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Martha said it well. I recently refused to get my teeth cleaned by an unvaccinated hygienist and might very well have canceled my upcoming (now past) surgery had I asked the question to my nurse. She said that everyone working in the hospital was NOT vaccinated! Horrors! However, she went on to assure me that everyone working in the hospital had to undergo a rapid test every time they came in to work to prove they were not positive. Even though I find unvaccinated personnel in a hospital hard to understand, at least I could be fairly sure that I was in a safe environment. I work on compassion and the unvaccinated are at the heart of my prayers. Hopefully, soon we will be able to reach closer to 100 per cent.

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