Loss and Grief the World is Experiencing – COVID-19
Around the world, countries are in various stages of lock down, change and fighting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the world there is tremendous loss of life and many are grieving loved ones. This grief is complicated by the fact that many were alone when passing and loved ones could not be near, nor are we able to properly carry out usual grieving rituals and funerals to gain closure. Over and above the loss of life there are other types of loss we are experiencing globally. This includes, loss of a way of life, loss of freedom, loss of social proximity, financial loss, loss of control and certainty to name a few.
Just as there are various types of loss… we grieve these losses as well.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five popular stages of grief, popularly referred to as DABDA. They include:
These stages do not necessarily have to happen in order, grief is not a neat and tidy process in fact some people may not have some of these feelings or linger longer in some stages than others or even visit some stages more than once. No one loss is the same for everybody, however it normal for many to go through these emotions as they process grief.
Just by acknowledging that what you are feeling is grief, by naming it, discussing it and knowing what you are going through is a step forward in processing your grief and ultimately towards healing.
The 5 Stage of Grief in Relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Denial is the stage that can initially help you survive the loss. It can be a feeling of numbness, disbelief or a state of shock that life as you have known it has suddenly changed. Denial aids in pacing your feelings of grief. Instead of becoming completely overwhelmed with grief, we deny it, do not accept it, and stagger its full impact as a full realization of the complete new reality all at once could be over whelming.
In terms of the pandemic an initial typical thought of denial was “ this virus won’t affect me” Once the denial starts to fade one can slowly start to process the situation and allow other feelings and thoughts to surface.
Anger is a common feeling that surfaces on denial starts to subside and the reality of the situation begins to unfold. It is part of a natural step towards healing. Thoughts like, “life is unfair” , why are others still able to make money but business is failing”, “why is this happening to my family?”. It is important to express this emotion as opposed to suppressing it.
Bargaining is a desperate attempt to regain what we once had before the loss, to get your life back to the way it was. Often those with a believe in God may attempt to “negotiate” and make a deal with God to save a person who is ill for example if they promise to be a better person. Guilt and endless “answerless” questions like “what if I had only …” begin to surface.
If I do social distancing for 2 weeks everything will be back to normal …. Right?
Depression is an accepted and common emotion in grieving. It is a sign that the person is living in reality in the present moment,the loss is felt, a sadness or emptiness because of that loss is present. During this time people may lose motivation, become detached or want to isolate. They may feel fatigued and tired. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness may arise. In the pandemic people may feel helpless, that that they have no control over what is happening to them … that nothing they do will matter or that they can change nothing.
The last stage of grief identified by Kübler-Ross is acceptance. The Acceptance does not mean that you are ok with the loss but rather a knowing that I am going to be ok despite what is/has happened. It is a time and place where there is an acknowledgement that life has changed and there is movement towards adjusting to the new norm. When one has more days of acceptance the emotions start to stabilize You come to terms with the fact that there is a new reality. It does not mean you like the new reality, it does however mean you are coming to terms with the idea that there is a new norm, and slowly one starts to adjust to the new norm that has been created. New thoughts may be “ I cant help that this is happening , what can I do to live with this and try move forward”.
This adjustment can take time, it is not easy it is not plane sailing. There will be bad days, better days and slowly some good days and hopefully more good days with time. It does not mean you will never have bad days again but most often better days start to out number the worst.
The 6th Stage : Finding Meaning
David Kessler—an expert on grief and the coauthor with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross of the iconic On Grief and Grieving added a 6th stage – Finding Meaning. In Finding Meaning one may move to a place where a person is remembered with more love than pain, in a way that honours the loved one. This stage of grief also occurs with other losses we are experiencing through the pandemic and already there are articles and reports of people noticing that nature itself is healing due to lock down, that we can acknowledge the benefits of technology that has helped us stay connected through isolation. We will continue to make meaning and find light together in this collective process.
We are NOT alone.
In an interview David Kessler in brief suggests the following to support this process of grief :
- Find balance in the things you’re thinking.
- Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay.
- You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.
- stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not
I have attached a Workbook to this letter that contains some activities that will help with processing this grief. Letting go of what you cannot control, Grounding and balancing your thoughts.
If you do not have access to the workbook please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for access. Otherwise visit.
By Janine Giannini www.yourtherapy.co.za
The Five Stages of Grief
An Examination of the Kubler-Ross Model
Article by: Christina Gregory, PhD
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief
by Scott Berinato
March 23, 2020