Normal no longer exists. Life as we knew it has changed significantly over the last few weeks and months as school, work, family, friendships and our way of life looks very different than it did at the beginning of the year.
There has been so much to look forward to as we planned for adventure’s and getaways in the year to come but due to a global pandemic and a national lockdown. Our excitement seems to have shut down simultaneously as the prospect of any birthdays, vacations away or reunions with family and friends now seem to have a big cancel sign stamped over it.
For some of you, there is hope as your birthday party has been planned for September or maybe you were able to move your wedding date to next year May. For others, the time has come and gone and with that, your plans. No party, no wedding, no overseas trip and no adventure, only disappointment and frustration.
Grief is not something that is reserved for when someone close to you passes away. Grief is actually something that we all have experienced at some point in our lives as it can be caused by different situations and relationships. Children may grieve a divorce, a husband the death of his wife, a teenager the loss of relationships, or you may have had to grieve bad news or job loss. In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five popular stages of grief, these stages include:
The first stage of grief is called denial. During this phase, you may believe that everything is OK and that all your plans will still work out as planned. You may believe that Covid-19 isn’t really happening because it is easier to believe the story you are telling yourself than the truth of the situation. You may find that you want to be by yourself and that’s ok! Denial is a common defence mechanism that helps buffer the immediate shock of what is happening.
After denial comes anger. During this phase, reality starts to sink in, and you realize that your plans have all changed and most of them won’t happen. You may get angry at your parents, colleagues, teachers, the government or anyone else around you. You may even get angry at objects in your room and house – all this anger is normal! It is important to manage your emotions and anger in a healthy way and not take it out on the people around you. It may help to go exercise, to write in a journal, to scribble on a notepad or listen to some music to help regulate your emotions. Remember, this situation is out of our control and with healthy, strong relationships you will get through this season!
Bargaining soon follows anger. During this phase, you will try to make a deal with God or someone else to try and make everything OK. You may even bargain with yourself in order to find control in a world of uncertainty. The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control through a series of “If only” statements, such as: If only we went overseas earlier instead of buying a new car; if only I made class notes from the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t feel so lost with online learning etc.
Depression. As you are going through the motions and different phases above, you start to realize that nothing you tried is working, and the situation won’t change. The reality of the situation could result in overwhelm and difficulty in managing your emotions. You may start to realize that lots of things make you sad. This could include stories in the news, pictures on Instagram, childhood memories, thinking about the future and other things. You may also experience an increase in worry and anxiety as you try to reorganize and plan everything that has been lost or anticipate you may lose.
The last phase is Acceptance. During this phase, you come to accept that the world, your normal routine and all your plans have changed and there is nothing you can do about it. This phase is not necessarily marked by happiness but with a sense of calm. You start to accept the reality of adapting each week as new lockdown rules are put in place and as old rules are lifted. As you accept and adapt, you start to move toward resilience and growth.
As you moved between the different stages of grief (and the different stages of lockdown), know that you may not experience the grieving process in a linear order. You may not even go through all of them and that is completely normal. But as you go through each stage, a common thread of hope emerges. Therefore, we would like to give you permission to grieve. Grieve the party you had to cancel, grieve the trip to Europe that didn’t happen, grieve the distance between you and a family member, grieve your struggling business and layoffs, grieve the effects of Covid-19. And through it, all, know that there is always hope. Hope for a new trip, hope for another birthday, hope for a cure, hope for new beginnings.
Stay safe and stay healthy.