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