Coping with Crisis
Grief and loss during COVID
Grief. Loss. These are words we hear about during death. Usually, we hear them when we have lost someone close to us, like a grandparent or a friend or, God forbid, a child. Grief and loss are heavy hitters when it comes to your mental health. They can bring you down. They can confuse you. They are not, however, words we typically associate with our day-to-day lives. Then came the pandemic.
One of the problems with the pandemic is that people do not recognize the process in which they are. We feel lost. We feel alone. The trauma that we are all experiencing in this country and the world is tremendous. We feel grief. We feel loss.
There are some common reactions to grief and loss. There are some common stages that we all are going through. Kubler-Ross gave us five stages, but some think there are seven.
Shock/Denial are stages 1 and 2. We have been floored by the fact that this virus has so attacked the world and America. We do not believe that it can be true, nor do we believe that we have shut down the country. We see our fellow Americans dying and suffering and don’t believe this is real. Some call it a hoax to deal with and process the confusing situation in which we find ourselves.
We denied that the pandemic would be bad. We rejected that it even would come to America. Slowly, however, we realized it is here, and we are in full-blown crisis mode.
Anger moves in next for Stage 3. Our gyms are shut down. Our schools are closed. We are sheltered in place, and we find ourselves looking for someone to blame. We are looking for someone at whom to scream. We feel angry and rageful, and we take to our keyboards or our phones and spew out venom and blame at everyone around us.
After we expend our energy and gas out ourselves, we end up in Stage 4: Bargaining.
Maybe, if we just stay inside and wear our mask and become obedient to the rules, this will go away. Maybe, this will only last a week. Please, God, let this only last a month. On and on, we plead for help and for some way out of the situation.
Where some of us are currently is Stage 5: Despair. We feel helpless, hopeless and hapless. We are not sure what is going to happen. There will be no going back to what was, only moving forward into this new, strange normal. We have lost jobs, health, friends, community, financial momentum. It has been depressing, to say the least. The suicide rate, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol use have all increased.
I hope and pray that we start moving into stages 6 and 7: Testing/Acceptance.
Testing means coming up with new ways to be and new ways to live that bring us back to the best versions of ourselves. We find ways of connecting safely but fully. We find ways of paving a path forward that will help us so we can all move back toward health and happiness. This is not promised, but I sure hope it is what we are all gearing up for at this stage.
The final stage is Acceptance. I am not sure how I feel about accepting the coronavirus. I think accepting that it happened is important, but accepting that this is the end cannot be the way we move forward.
Lastly, I would like to add the eighth stage, and that is Making Meaning. I think that it is important for each one of us to take this time to make meaning out of our lives – to establish new routines that take into consideration the things and people that we found so important during this time. Perhaps, it was the walks in the park. Maybe it was the board games around the kitchen table. Likely, it was the dinners and conversations we have been able to have due to being locked down during this time. We have to make meaning out of this pandemic and come out of it stronger than ever. We have to build up our community in a way that the things we hold dear never again slip into the background. I believe that God has a plan for America, and it can be a good one. I hope that you choose to take this time to grieve and process those things through which you have and are going. I pray that you take this time to make meaning out of the grief and loss that you are experiencing and come out on the other side with hope.
Clint Davis MS, LPC, CCTP, CSAT, CCTP, EMDR provider, director of recovery for the Hub:Urban Ministries