Originally Published April 24, 2020
We are currently towards the end of week 5/6 depending on location, of the coronavirus quarantine. It feels like we can finally start to see some light at the end of the tunnel. As a society however, there are challenges that we should be gearing up to face as guidelines begin to ease.
Statistically, by the end of all of this, you will have come in contact with the Coronavirus either directly or indirectly. With such a widespread impact, losing a loved one may be inevitable.
In the last two months my family has experienced five deaths seemingly in succession; two of which were coronavirus related. Because of the timing of the passing’s, we did not have an opportunity to properly grieve everyone.
The few memorial services that are being held, are being done with strict social distancing guidelines. Families are being left without the typical outlet of a proper funeral to facilitate their grieving process. In these extenuating circumstances, there is value in knowing what we can go through while grieving. As well as how we may be able to better facilitate the process for ourselves.
The Five Stages of Grief
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed the five stages of grief model. It explains what it is we experience when we go through loss. Her model identifies denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as the main stages or phases we go through while grieving. Keep in mind that the grieving process, is a healing process.
This stage helps us to survive the loss. We deny our reality. We numb ourselves to what we are experiencing and try to carry on business as usual. The goal in this stage is to just get through each day. Ross believed that this stage is nature’s way of helping you cope, by not allowing you to get overwhelmed.
Anger is an essential part of the healing process. You get through your anger at the loss of someone by leaning into the fact that you are angry. We must be willing to feel our anger. Your anger during this stage can express itself in a variety of different ways that can be unique.
We may find ourselves projecting; putting our feelings on to someone or something else. We may also find ourselves getting upset over things that normally would not elicit a vitriol response. Anger is a response to the pain someone begins to feel once the denial wears off; and reality starts to sink in. Do not be afraid to be upset. Real healing comes when you allow yourself to properly experience the emotions that come with your anger.
Bargaining presents itself as a desired escape from reality. We wrestle with “if then” and “what if” statements and try to quantify the loss in deeds. It is almost a state of delusion.
We long for a return to normal; and run through scenarios in our mind that we think would have potentially prevented our loved one from passing. You may vacillate through the other stages while bargaining, as well as bear the weight of guilt. While bargaining, all we want is for the hurting to stop.
Depression is normal when grieving a loss and should be treated as such. It is just a phase, and no matter how long it takes for you to get through it… you will.
It is important that while in this stage, you allow yourself the time necessary to explore and understand your depression; and not be ostracized by it.
Acceptance is you finally acknowledging your new reality. This is when you learn to live with your new life. The adjustment may be difficult at first, but we learn to manage. This does not mean that we do not miss our loved one(s); But we learn how to live and miss them at the same time.
This will most likely be a gradual process as you must acclimate to a new normal. Do not neglect your needs during this time. Its important to be in tune with your feelings and be able to process them reasonably. This can look like anything from more private time, joining support groups, therapy, or leaning into already existing relationships.
How to Grieve Well
Typically, a funeral can usher us in and or through these stages of grief. It is important that if we find ourselves experiencing a loss, that we can acknowledge our grief. Do not be afraid to ask yourself: “Am and grieving and ehat stage of grief am I in?”.
By knowing what you are experiencing, you are recognizing your emotions and mental state of being. By knowing where we are, we can begin to change how we are. You may want to ask yourself instead of what stage of grief am I in; what stage of healing am I in? Controlling the narrative can be a good way to self-manage and facilitate personal healing.
Grieving well requires that we be honest with ourselves and our loved ones. It means that we are willing to express, but also challenge our emotions. It also means that we do not rush through our process.
I know for me, when I grieve, historically I tend to spend a lot of time in the denial and depression stages. By pinpointing where I am, I allow myself to be found.
That is what grieving well is: acknowledging that you need time to heal. And putting yourself in a position that gives both the time and resources necessary to do so.
Grief and loss is a part of life; and has been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. Knowing what to expect while grieving and being able to grieve well by knowing one’s self while going through the stages, will allow for a better more fulfilling healing process.