COVID GRIEF

It has been a year since the pandemic began here in the United States. At that time, none of us knew what we were in store for. We were innocent and naive thinking we’d be inconvenienced for a short time. Now we know the hardships COVID19 is capable of causing. We wear masks, try to maintain a safe distance from others, don’t hug our loved ones and avoid shopping or eating out. People are working from home. Children have been trying to learn through virtual lessons. People we know and love are sick or perhaps even dying. Nothing is normal and we miss everything that we took for granted.

Most of us are aware that we are changed. We are not ourselves in many ways. Our feelings are not unlike those of grief when experiencing a specific loss, such as in divorce, a loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one or our own approaching death. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described what she called the five stages of grief. Looking at these stages now may help us to understand some of our current feelings and moods. Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

It is easy to see that our first reaction to the pandemic was denial that it could possibly be this serious. As time went on and we realized our lives were severely altered it was natural to feel anger. Anger at being told what we could and could not do, anger at those who refused to take those necessary precautions and anger at the inconvenience of it all was a frequent feeling. Bargaining may be harder to recognize, but at times we surely promised mentally that we’d follow the rules and that would bring an end to this curse sooner. Depression, including suicide, today is a significant problem according to mental health professionals. It is hard to fight when one is depressed and the condition becomes a vortex of despondency and a feeling of inertia that makes each day hard to face. Acceptance is having hope and in the case of COVID a feeling that normalcy will return and that life will be joyous again.

These stages of grief do not always come in this order and it isn’t unusual to switch back and forth among these stages. There are no exact parameters. Some degree of each stage will probably linger and overlap other stages. After twelve months of this experience you can probably identify these stages of grief in your life. Hopefully this recognition of the process and an understanding of the stages will help us to go forward with hope.

Photo by Pixabay

These Times

What Are You Feeling?

These are unprecedented times of pandemic, wild fires, hurricanes, racial tension and political uncertainty. We experience so many emotions at the same time and we wonder how to deal with any one of them. Perhaps one way to sort out our feelings is to realize that we are enduring profound grief. We are Grieving the loss of normalcy that is missing in our lives.

Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Do any of these sound like what you are feeling? I believe we are encountering profound grief at this time. We do not have to experience a loss through death in order to undergo these emotions. https://crookedcreek.live/2018/12/10/grief/

Any loss can cause some or all of these emotions in any order. It is not unreasonable to feel anger when unable to go out to eat in a restaurant or to enjoy a big family get-together. If is very natural to be depressed when unable to hug your loved ones for months on end. These are normal feelings and we are normal having them, but it does not mean it is easy.

Hopefully just recognizing the grief for what it is will be of some help. Acknowledging rather than denying may help us to feel more normal. Accepting the abnormal might mean realizing that it is temporary and that there will be normalcy once again at sometime in the future.

In the meantime, explore your feelings by making a list of that has changed. This may put things into a different perspective. We may realize that there have been gains as well as losses.

LOSTGAINED
Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” Marcel Proust

Grief

Stages of Grief

In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the book “On Death and Dying” outlining what came to be known as the Five Stages of Grief. Few understood that Kubler-Ross was describing what she had observed in her patients who were dying. It was about personal grief from one’s own approaching death but could be applied to the grief of any loss that might be experienced. The author published a second book decades later entitled “On Grief and Grieving” in which she explained the stages further.

With this background in mind, it serves us well to briefly look at the five stages which Dr. Kubler-Ross listed.

1.Denial
Denial is a natural reaction which briefly buffers one from the unthinkable reality of death or approaching death.

2. Anger
Anger is often directed at the unfairness of the loss one is experiencing.

3. Bargaining
Bargaining is a mechanism that is especially used by those who are anticipating their own death. Bargaining might be in the form of asking to just see a daughter’s wedding or a grandchild’s birth before death.

4. Depression
Depression sets in when one realizes that bargaining will not work and is a period of deep mourning.

5. Acceptance
Accepting the inevitability of death brings a measure of peace, but it does not erase grief. 

One should never expect grief to be packaged in a neat orderly group of these five steps. Instead, grieving is personal and these stages can occur in any order, can overlap, as well as come and go over time. Having a general idea of what one is experiencing in these terms can, however, be helpful in recognizing the normalcy of the process.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/06/book-reviews/

Types of Loss

These stages, these feelings are not only connected with loss through death but can be from any type of significant loss. Some that quickly come to my mind are the loss of a job, a home or a pet. Other less obvious perhaps are the loss of self-image (through injury or surgery), loss of a partner through divorce or separation and even loss of status or a sense of self. Through all of these losses and more, we can expect to deny, be angry, bargain, experience depression and hopefully finally reach a degree of acceptance.

IMG_7912 (1)

How to Say Goodbye

One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to one who is dying. Knowing that these are likely the last words you will speak to someone you care about is a formidable responsibility. Beryl Schewe (Eden Prairie News) notes six things that should or could be said. They are: I love you, Thank you, I forgive you, Forgive me, I will be OK, and Goodbye. It seems to me that any of these six simple phrases said in love are appropriate. I believe they are enough. I believe they can bring peace to both the dying and the survivor.

In the next post, we will discuss what to say and not say to one who is grieving.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

Theme photo in title by Pixabay