These are trying times. It wasn’t too long ago that we were enjoying our everyday lives—going to work, attending school, seeing a concert or show, and in general living life as we pleased.
Now the situation has changed dramatically and quickly. Schools are closed, many have lost their jobs, and social distancing is the new norm.
Many are ill with COVID-19, and some have tragically lost their lives. We are experiencing loss on several levels. And with loss comes grief.
Understanding the connection between coronavirus and grief can help to navigate unexpected feelings.
Grief is the process that we go through whenever we experience a loss in life. Yes, you feel pain when someone you know passes away, or you lose a job that you enjoyed doing. However, there is also a process of grief that you go through, as well.
Psychiatrist and renowned author, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, first identified five stages of grief in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. The stages include:
This approach is how we typically cope with loss. It might seem as if everything is falling apart. However, in the long run, it’s very reasonable to be experiencing these emotions. According to Freud, grieving is a natural process that shouldn’t be tampered with.
But how does grief apply to the novel coronavirus impacting our lives so profoundly?
Denial and Anger
When most people first hear of a new disease, it’s usually in a place that’s very far away. It’s easy to slip into the mindset that it will never hit home, which is a denial of the disease’s impact altogether.
However, this particular virus did spread and is now affecting your life. You likely moved from a state of denial to anger as your way of life was disrupted intensely. Major events, such as concerts and other large public gatherings were canceled, and then the schools closed. Your work was even disrupted, such as:
- Having to implement new procedures in the workplace, such as physical distancing
- Switching from working in an office to remote work at home
- Losing your job—laid off, furlough, etc.—because of the virus
Of course, you are going to feel angry. It only makes sense. Especially when you think about how underneath that anger is fear.
Perhaps, your mind attempts to bargain with the virus. Bargaining is the next stage of grief. Maybe you think to yourself, “If I only do this, then I won’t get sick.”
Unfortunately, viruses don’t bargain or make deals. It’s natural to feel angry about the situation as you realize that, despite your best efforts, you might still become ill—which is a powerless feeling.
Depression is perhaps the hardest part of the grief process. With depression, as mentioned above, you recognize that you are powerless over the situation. You can’t wish away the virus. Nor can you change the situation from the “Big Picture” perspective.
COVID-19 will continue to disrupt life as we know it as it continues to spread around the globe. That can lead to symptoms of depression, such as hopelessness, a feeling of doom, sadness, lack of joy, etc.
With acceptance, you come to acknowledge the situation for what it is. It can help to realize that although you cannot change the reality of things from a big picture perspective, there is much you can do individually, such as:
- Practicing social distancing and following stay-at-home orders to reduce the outbreak
- Continuing to work, if you can, and be productive
- Taking on household chores or projects that you have been putting off for a while
- Eating healthy
- Getting enough sleep
- Learning a new skill, such as practicing the guitar
Additionally, you could talk to a therapist about the situation. It helps to have a professional put your grief into perspective and walk you through these stages together.
These are undoubtedly modern times. It can feel confusing and scary. However, know that what you’re feeling is completely natural. Coronavirus may cause grief for a while. But knowing the stages of grief and how they affect you can help you move through it effectively.
We’re all in this together. Please reach out to me today for support or visit my page on depression counseling to learn more about how I can help.