In 1969, Kubler-Ross authored the 5 stages of grief that we are all familiar with when it comes to loss. Over 50 years later, during this time of COVID-19, they can provide us with a good framework for better understanding our emotional experience as we move through this global crisis and navigate these unprecedented times. Here at Harmony Bay Wellness, we understand these stages can serve as a means for us to share this experience of the universal loss of our normalcy.
COVID-19 and The Stages of Grief
Please note, it is not guaranteed that we will experience these stages in this particular order. We may even circle back around a few times. It is important for each to remember that this is an individualized process, and the only way to the other side is to patiently walk through it.
Remaining in denial allows us to maintain our sense of equilibrium for longer. As long as we are in a state of perceived equilibrium, we do not need to change. We know that humans are inherently resistant to change, especially to those changes which may cause us discomfort.
In the time of COVID-19, it took several weeks for the world (globally and individually) to come to terms that this major shift was actually happening. We saw individual countries/states/municipalities and individuals responding at different rates and with different levels of severity. For many of us it took the disease hitting our communities and loved ones, or even the one-way aisles at the grocery stores, in order to acknowledge that Coronavirus is real.
Once we’ve moved into this stage, we can no longer deny that our loss/difficult experience is happening. And now we are angry. Anger is a normal response to fear. It is much easier to get frustrated and lash out than it is to sit in our own discomfort and acknowledge our fear. In our anger, we may turn ourselves into victims and blame others for our position, feelings or experience. Often this anger is misdirected and unfair.
In the time of COVD-19, many of us experienced anger towards our employers for their actions – or lack thereof, at the response of other officials and their attempts to mitigate this pandemic, at our neighbors for getting ill and putting us at risk.
In another attempt to avoid our feelings, we try to negotiate our circumstances. This is an attempt to regain control over the threatening vulnerability we feel coming. In some ways we are conceding to an outcome, but trying to have that outcome be on our own terms. This usually consists of “if only” thoughts that can create false hope that things can be different.
In the time of COVID-19, this may look like us negotiating ways that make us feel like we have more influence over this strange new reality. If only I can keep my job/still have coffee with my neighbor/still celebrate my wedding, etc., this won’t impact me so much.
At this stage it is expected to feel overwhelmed and helpless. Suddenly, we are flooded with fear and feelings of vulnerability. We have no options left but to sit in our discomfort. Things are out of our control, we may have nagging questions about how we will continue life looming large. We doubt our ability to manage life on these new terms.
In the time of COVID-19, these feelings of depression can be compounded by imposed isolation. Many of our typical external resources (gym, socializing, work, running errands) are no longer available to us. We may feel helpless and not know where to turn.
Here it is. Life is different. Any feelings we have are normal. This is where we are, and we need to understand that our world is now different. As we have reluctantly ridden the wave of dis-equilibrium, we have found ourselves in a place where we must create a new status quo.
In the time of Coronavirus, it is hard to know what our new normal will look like. It’s difficult to know what it is exactly that we are accepting. It is finally acknowledging that those trips, ceremonies, milestones, activities we planned for are going to have to take a different form. For many of us, right now, it is settling into a new routine and finding alternative ways to find fulfillment. This final stage of grief can be a challenge, but it’s one you can get to with others.
Working Through the Stages
The stages of grief work metaphorically but also practically. It is important to remember that we all do things at our own pace. And that while our experience is always personal, COVID-19 is something we are experiencing together. You are not alone. Anything you feel is normal. As Viktor Frankl said, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” Be kind to yourselves. Be kind to others. Let “good enough” be the bar you set for yourself. Use this time to develop new and creative strategies to help you explore, express, and accept any thoughts and feelings related to this major life and world adjustment. Ask for support. Life has changed; we will adapt. Be patient with and forgiving of yourselves and others, while we do. So reach out to Harmony Bay Wellness today at 855.765.6399.