Rachel Dubrow, LCSW
That feeling you have...it's actually grief
Grief is one of those things that we experience at different points of life. We lose someone we know and love. We unexpectedly (or expectedly) move from a job we loved for years. We have a natural disaster or attack, such as the wildfires tearing through the West coast, hurricanes, or 9/11. Now, with COVID-19, we are most likely grieving and don't even realize it.
As much as we like to talk about life stressors, we really, really don't like to talk about grief. It's the uncomfortable elephant in the room for some and the silent partner for others. It may be something really obvious or something that we just stumble upon.
You may have heard about Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of grief. Here's my more updated interpretation of how that's relevant now with the COVID pandemic:
Denial. We probably experienced this most often in the beginning of the pandemic. We heard about it in the media back in November and didn't think it would affect us. Or, if it did, it wouldn't be all that prevalent. We thought that if everyone practiced social distancing and wore masks and those who were sick self quarantined, it wouldn't be as prevalent or affect us.
Anger. We then became angry that we had (and still have) all of these limitations placed on us. We're angry because schools are closed, doing hybrid, or doing sole e-learning. We're angry because work shifts have impacted our schedules and lifestyles in ways we didn't imagine it would. Eating out at restaurants and our social lives are shifted in ways we never imagined it would - and are impacting our ability to relax and recharge from all this stress. We're angry this is going on for as long as it is at this point. Our anger makes us feel out of control and helpless to the point where we feel lost and trapped.
Bargaining. We think about our situation that may very well be permanent as a temporary thing. This gives us the light we need at the end of the tunnel. We think and hope and dream about what we want to do when the pandemic is over and are booking vacations for months away and into 2021 despite medical experts telling us that they're still working on a vaccine and that we may experience an uptick in cases come fall. We do this because it makes us feel like we have control over some aspects of our situation - and helps us move forward.
Depression. Michelle Obama is one of the many public figures who disclosed her struggle with depression related to the pandemic. I know there are many more of us out there - public figure or not - who are also experiencing symptoms of lack of motivation or interest, sleeping changes, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and difficulty concentrating. Some people are having "mental breakdowns" where their depression is coupled with worry and anxiety and they don't know how to cope. The good thing is that mental health care is more accessible now more than ever with insurance companies covering online therapy when they previously hadn't.
Acceptance. This is where we accept where we are, for who we are in this moment in time. We work towards having this level of acceptance as we move through the process so that we can feel free to move forward.
So, here's the thing - we can flip in and out of all 5 of these phases in any order, at any time. What's important to know is that all of this is to be expected and is absolutely okay. If you're finding yourself feeling more depressed, hopeless, or helpless and want to learn tangible tools to cope, reach out to us. We're here to help and provide any resources we can during this time.