By: Tracy Stodart
March 31, 2020
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve followed the progress of what started as something happening in China to what is now a full-blown pandemic with over half a million people infected across the world. In the same way that the World Wars and 9/11 changed the world forever, this is one of those moments!
For all involved, it’s stirred up a lot of feelings. Each of us is struggling with all sorts of challenges and emotions; fear for the health of our loved ones and ourselves, perhaps a sense of panic over potential and actual job cuts. Many are worried about their savings, their financial commitments and their ability to get through the next few months, let alone the wider and longer-term implications for the world’s economy.
Frankly, we’ve never really experienced anything like this, so with nothing to compare it to, it’s hard to know where or how to begin when sifting through and sorting out all of our feelings about what’s going on.
Even if your encounter with COVID-19 has been minimal so far, it seems we’re all experiencing some sort of loss, whether it’s our personal freedom, security, connection with friends and loved ones etc. Aside from the immediate worries, e.g. my job and elderly parents to name a couple, I even find myself sad for the loss of my plans in the short to medium term. It feels like it will take ages for things to return to any sort of normal.
When we lose something, there is a process to get through to the other side. The famed psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined five stages from the initial loss itself all the way through to acceptance.
Let’s take each of the stages and relate them to how we might be feeling as this can be really helpful in finding our way through this really challenging time.
Stage One is Denial. Just a few short weeks ago we rationalized the new threat with comparisons to SARS, H1N1 etc. and because it seemed unlikely to affect us, we didn’t take it too seriously. I think most people have moved past this now! If you have, what was the turning point?
Stage Two is Anger. I’ve felt really angry about the Corona virus. I’m angry that so many lives have been lost or completely tipped upside down, that I need to cling to my job and that so much has changed in such a short space of time. How are you feeling? Frustration, worry and anger are really common at this stage.
While Anger is an acknowledged stage of the journey, it doesn’t last forever and we will eventually move to Stage Three, Bargaining. During the Bargaining Stage we tend to make promises to ourselves for when things return to normal. We also bargain by agreeing to uphold things like social distancing, self-isolation and pay cuts in return for things going back to something close to normal. What bargains have you struck?
When the anger turns to sadness, you have probably moved into Stage Four, Despair. Staying at home and having little interaction is hard on our mental health. To get through this stage, try to stick to the routine of getting up, getting some exercise and of keeping in touch with friends and family.
Stage Five is Acceptance – finally!
This is where we get some perspective, understand what happened and start to work with what we’ve got. It’s about accepting, what Debs Lloyd from the Living Well Consultancy is calling this the “Strange New Normal” and doing the best we can for ourselves and those around us. I think Acceptance is when the plans and dreams start to formulate again and when we can visualize taking positive steps forward. There is no set or prescribed time for this but like you, I hope it’s very, very soon! I know we’re all looking forward to the chance to say, “We kicked COVID19’s ass!”