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.