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Facing Fear in a time of Coronavirus

Marisa Garreffa
Mar 11 · 4 min read

A letter of love from Italy.

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

It’s our chance, worldwide, to learn what it means to take something seriously while, at the same time, refusing to panic or be pulled into excessive fear. It’s not a choice between one response or the other, we must do both, simultaneously.

Something that we did here in Italy was say, “We will not be afraid!”, and we thought this meant we should carry on as normal, and challenge ourselves to do normal things and live normally — without fear. This was a poor interpretation of how to respond to the fear. The situation isn’t normal.

A better response, one that we are working on earnestly now, is to ask, ok, how can we identify the true problem at the core of this crisis (health system overload), and how can we adjust our behaviour in the best ways possible in order to meet the challenges calmly, collaboratively, and with care for each other as much as for ourselves.

One big challenge is that the rules change every day. That can be hard to deal with, and a lack of strong and clear leadership can make things worse, because it feels like the ground is always changing beneath you. The trick is to surrender to this. Each day, I do the best I can with the information I have, and I stay open to learning more and changing my behaviours and ideas, over and over again.

I don’t let this need for change increase my panic, I breathe through it, I try to flow with the experience, because we are going through something that we have never seen before. That we are unprepared for. So it’s going to be a little messy. But we will get through it, together, and help each other to make it day by day.

Here are a few things we’ve learned so far, that might help for people who are still in the early days:

The risk is not the death rate, but the impact of the high percentage of sick people needing to be hospitalised and on respirators at the same time. The hospitalisation period is also very long. This crashes the health system. A crashed health system is a very bad thing.

Requests to self quarantine are really serious. You must follow them. Requests to wash hands properly and regularly, disinfect surfaces, reduce large public gatherings, touch other people less, increase the personal space around people, use methods to stop you from touching your face all the time, stay home as much as possible, and so on, are all serious. Do them.

Due to tough economic realities, a lot of people will be in big trouble if they get sick, have to self quarantine, or have to survive a government imposed quarantine. We have to help each other. Those who can, lend a little money to help someone meet their rent, or buy food, or pads and tampons. Push the government for a strong and realistic relief package that supports also the most vulnerable.

Check on your neighbours. Do they have someone? Can you be that person? If they get sick, can you be the person who leaves the groceries at their door?

Support your medical staff. They will go through it hard. Tell the government to pay for child support for all medical staff and hospital workers. They’re going to need it.

Panic buying reduces products available for low income earners who cannot afford to stock pile. This includes all medical supplies like masks, gloves, and medicines. There are also medical staff and immunocompromised people who need those items every single day, regardless of this epidemic, and cannot get access to them because of panic buying. Please limit yourself. Think of others. Be a team.

Take the situation seriously, be prepared to make changes, and know there will be an economic hit that will be harder for some than others. This is not the same thing as saying panic, be fearful, and therefore become defiant and ignore the situation entirely OR begin behaving in ways that protect only yourself and “forget everyone else! I gotta save me!” Both of those reactions set us against each other, and we have to be in it together.

It’s a real opportunity to face crisis together as one. Our politics will change after this, our economies will change after this, our ideas about what it means to be a global citizen will change after this. Let’s allow it to bring us closer together, rather than further apart.

With love from Italy,



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Marisa Garreffa

Written by

Poetic and critical reflections on life, trauma, recovery, soul, and healing; with art and performance as pathways back into embodied existence.

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