The Undisguised Brutality of our Time

Sigmund Freud and his daughter, Sophie

In January 1920, exactly one century ago, Dr. Sigmund Freud lost his daughter, Sophie, to the Spanish flu pandemic. He was unable to visit her during her time of sickness because of travel restrictions. Sound familiar? In his grief he wrote:

The undisguised brutality of our time is weighing heavily upon us. Tomorrow she is to be cremated, our poor Sunday child!”

I recently learned the story of Freud losing his 27-year-old daughter in her prime in the course of the last worldwide pandemic during a training for mental health professionals. Psychoanalytic theory has never been my bread and butter, and while I give credit where credit is due and honor Freud for the place he holds in the history of mental health, I can’t say I’ve ever particularly related to this man.

Until I saw the quote pop up on screen – “The undisguised brutality of our time is weighing heavily upon us.”

I feel the brutality of our time weighing upon me heavily. Whether it’s worrying about this COVID-19 virus infecting me or someone I love and suffering serious health consequences, my children’s schooling, my clients’ collective mental health and resilience, the endless monotony of staying at home, the inflamed political climate, or the science denialists super spreaders making this even worse, the ever-evolving quicksand of our current reality has me swimming as hard as I can against the current and still feeling like I’m sinking.

And when I feel that weight upon me I allow myself to feel my feelings while keeping an eye stretched out on the long-term perspective. This isn’t going to last forever. The Spanish flu pandemic didn’t last forever either. The fact that Freud, who spent his career studying and analyzing human behavior and feelings, was able to put to words what it feels like to endure the weight of all of this, leads me to believe we’re all going to be okay. This is only a season.


Risa has a Masters and Bachelors degree in Social Work. She is an Associate Therapist who has worked in child abuse prevention, adoption, and volunteers as a CASA . She is a mother of 4 and in her spare time she is a voracious reader, snarker, and subversive cross-stitcher.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Amy says:

    Oh, thank you for this.

  2. Thank you! It is certainly feeling like forever, but we do need to keep perspective.

  3. SisterStacey says:

    Thank you for this. I needed it today.
    My grand uncle was 23 and going to the University of Minnesota when he died of the flu in 1920. His father had to travel to Minneapolis to get his body. It’s heartbreaking to see my GG grandfather’s signature on his son’s death certificate. And I don’t want that to happen again. “Undeniable brutality” is so true.

  4. EmilyCC says:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.