All of us are grieving. Some have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Others have lost loved ones to other illnesses and they may very well have been sick for a very long time. It must have been devastating not being able to be with these family members or friends in their time of need. Many people have lost incomes, jobs, businesses or livelihoods. Financial stress is very concerning and drowning in debt is incredibly stressful. Being unable to feed ones family and not having money to pay rent or your bond is a desperate situation. For others the loss relates to postponed weddings or family holidays.
We have all lost everyday routine – going to work and connecting with people in the office; missing the school routine of learning, friendship and sport; parents missing the social connections in the school environment whether it is watching sport, music concerts or plays. What about the Grade 12 class of 2020? They missed pretty much missed most of the academic year but also all the milestones – matric dance, sporting contests, charity work, plays and concerts. What about 1st year university students? Or final year students? Most had 6 weeks of university life. 2020 has been salvaged with online classes but there is no community experience of student life, sports and clubs. Mums with new born babies have lost the connection with other mothers in play groups or stimulation groups. The list is endless. We have all lost something in 2020 and we need to acknowledge this loss and process our grief.
I am reminded of the 5 stages of grief – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. This work related to loss from terminal illness. But it is now accepted that these stages of grief can be applied to anyone experiencing loss/grief whether through illness or loss of income or business etc.
I know this process well. I too was once consumed by grief post the termination of a Down’s pregnancy during an IVF journey. It was a very difficult period in my life but a time that was also incredibly powerful and transformative. I would encourage anyone to truly process one’s grief fully. It is not easy nor pretty. But at some stage the grief will need to be processed. When we push our feelings aside and try to control or deny our feelings they will find a way to emerge – perhaps many years later. It will be that much harder to process the grief that was so well hidden and buried. Grief is a completely natural process. We need to give people space to grieve knowing we cannot fix it for them. It is important to just be there and hold the space for them to grieve. This is also not easy.
The Five Stages of Grief Are…
Denial – this is the first stage – not being able to fully grasp the situation – can’t believe this has happened. We enter this stage so that the loss doesn’t come crashing down on us.
Anger – we direct our anger outside of self – at the world, an institution, the health system. Anger allows us to work through some emotions without feeling vulnerable. Once the anger is exhausted the person has an opportunity to face the loss.
Bargaining – like denial and anger this stage allows us to avoid being vulnerable and asking for help. In this stage we bargain – if only…. It is only natural to try and make sense of the loss. But sadly there are some losses that cannot be explained.
Depression – this stage is the most recognisable stage of grief. We see others face their loss and become overwhelmed with sadness. Those grieving will tend to isolate themselves. It will be difficult to socialise, get out of bed and face the day. It just feels overwhelmingly difficult. You may very well feel like giving up and curling up in a ball and hoping to disappear. Life seems pointless. This is a natural process but can become very destructive if the person grieving doesn’t ask for help. Suicide is a real danger during this period.
Acceptance – this is the final stage, when the person grieving can see some light at the end of the tunnel. They are able to accept their situation and move forward. The healing process can begin and the person can integrate the loss into their life experience.
This process takes time. The grieving process cannot be rushed. The person may not move through all stages in sequence. It is often said that it takes 3 years to process a loss. The first year you are just going through the motions, the second year you are working through all the anniversaries related to the loss and it is only in the third year that you are able to move forward into the light.
We all need to recognise that this is a very difficult time globally. Grief is all around us. But is it also a time of profound change. Once we process the loss and move forward we will have stepped forward into a new reality – into the light.