From Pandemic to Endemic

By Emma Pearson

April 17, 2024

30 October 2021

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

I read a McKinsey article this morning called “Pandemic to Endemic: How the world needs to learn to live with COVID-19”.

The article is basically about, erm, learning to live with COVID-19. That COVID-19 is something that is not going to go away. That it is not time-bound as we’d hoped it would be. That we need to learn to live with it. Live alongside it.

“…For the most part, endemic diseases are here to stay. The shift from pandemic to endemic entails a number of practical considerations… But the shift is also psychological, as we will be deprived of the satisfaction that a clean pandemic end point would bring. Instead, societies will have to adapt to living alongside COVID-19 by making some deliberate choices about how to coexist”.

This sounds like some of the shifts, the dawning realisations, that can become evident after a death of a loved one. That, in time, we realise, this transition, this being in the world without my loved one(s), isn’t time-bound, doesn’t have an end date. That there is no “getting better” or “making things right”. There just is “living with” and learning new behavioural skills, new ways of being, living without what one had before.

As with COVID-19, where we are still learning to adopt new behaviours, to adapt to a world vastly changed, and live without some of what we had before, so it is with Grief. Constantly learning to be, to live in a vastly changed world. Without resources (freedom, choices, people) we used to have around us.

Later the article says, “Endemic disease does not mean unmanaged disease. Rather, what’s needed is a shift from viewing COVID-19 as a one-time threat that defines society to seeing it as a part of everyday life that we must learn to endure”.

Again – replace a few words, and we could be talking about love, life and death, loss and grief. What is needed is a shift from viewing illness, death and loss as aberrations, “failings”, to be kept out of sight, to fully owning, recognising, admitting that loss, endings, death – and therefore Grief – are all around, pervasive.

In our day-to-day lives. At work. At home.

I don’t much like the word “endure”, but I do value the notion of “seeing it (COVID-19) as part of life”. Seeing Grief, loss, death, as part of life. Yes.

I am also provoked as I contemplate the word “define”, and the invitation to shift from being defined (by loss) to being able to (re)join everyday life. I admit that I feel discomfort as I consider whether or not I mind being “defined by my losses”.

Or not.

For I do feel defined by my losses – as they shape me, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, most moments of each day.

Dammit, I define myself by my losses. At least to a degree. At least at the moment. At least in the writing I post here. And I don’t mind it if I do. So long as it is me doing the defining. Not others.

And I am also not defined by my losses. I am much more than the losses.

Perhaps the better word is indeed “Shaped”. For it is not a clear-cut line.

Instead it is a moulding. An unfolding. Much of what I sense – past, present or future – blurred. Ground always shifting.

An invitation to keep on adapting.

And learning to live with.


To read the McKinsey article, go here.

About Emma Pearson

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