It’s Time To Grieve: A Review of the Five Stages

A man in a leather jacket looking down while sitting on a ledge in a city

We are ankle deep in the global pandemic. It is the second week of April. There are over two million people now tested to have COVID-19. Over one hundred thousand people have died.

So let’s talk about grief.

Lately, when I go for a walk people and see other people, they’ll be positive:

“Hey, how are you doing? It’s a beautiful day.”

“Yeah, it’s great. How you doing?”

“Good, good. Everything’s good. Wife’s getting a lot of projects done.”

I call BS on that. I’m struggling with that because I want to be socially appropriate. But I also want to be real.

It might be sunny out and that’s great, but I can’t say everything is good. I’m grieving. We’re grieving individually and collectively and the sooner we can let ourselves feel pain and grief the sooner we can come out of it.

We’re grieving individually and collectively and the sooner we can let ourselves feel pain and grief the sooner we can come out of it.

Grieving for the people who’ve passed, who are sick, to grieve for children who are not able to graduate, return to college, go to their classrooms. Grieving the normalcy that we don’t have, grieving the life that we had a month ago, two months ago, three months ago that seems so quaint.

We can’t unfeel the pandemic. It will forever be on us. It will forever be in us. It will forever be with us.

To process this, let’s take a little visit to the great thinking of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She is credited with conceiving of the five stages of grief:

Denial: Oh no, this isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. We can fight it. People going out for St. Patrick’s day, people on the beach in Florida, life’s not going to change. Nope. This isn’t happening.

Anger: We’re angry that the life we have isn’t here. We’re angry we can’t go to that trip for spring break. We’re angry that we can’t see our loved ones on Easter and Passover. We’re angry we can’t use public transportation without anxiety and fear. We’re angry we have to be scared about going to the grocery store.

Bargaining: “It’s probably only going to be a couple of weeks.” Bargaining is also calling this “the new normal”. This isn’t anything close to normal. Bargaining is thinking churches will be open by Easter, that the US will be back in business by May 1. We might have a cure, or immunizations this spring. That we might be on the other side of this thing.

Depression: Who has cried in the last month? Last week? Who is really breaking down? What nurse or doctor hasn’t cried? My clients are crying. I’m crying. We’re sad. We’re deeply sad. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s normal to feel sad. It’s healthy to feel sad.

Acceptance: We’ve accepted that things have changed. We’ve accepted that we’re home for a while. We’ve accepted the loss of normal. Acceptance is recognizing that life is going to be different now.

We can’t unfeel the pandemic. It will forever be on us. It will forever be in us. It will forever be with us.

The stages of grief are not linear; you go in and out of all of these. Maybe within an hour you’ll feel all five.

I know a lot of people are trying not to think about it by keeping themselves busy, by drinking too much, by watching Netflix. Those are all forms of escape. You can’t escape grief. You can’t outrun it. It will come, and the sooner you can give yourself permission to feel it, the sooner you are able to process the feelings, get to a steadier state and grow.

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