The impact of COVID19 has undoubtedly manifested into a physical and psychological stressor. Many of us are scrambling to implement a “new normal” during an unprecedented era. Within a short amount of time our communities have been placed on social distancing precautions, school closings have been extended for months, telework availability has increased, and our community partners within retail and food service have experienced a reduction in hours and/or termination. For individuals on the frontlines, we continue to meet the needs of those who require essential services.
The ways in which we cope has ranged from providing comic relief to others through social media platforms, to the facilitation of virtual mindfulness activities, to isolating from others completely. The loss of financial security, the loss of routine, the loss of control has definitely been an underlying psychological current that runs beneath it all. As additional data continues to mount, further conclusions highlight the ongoing health/racial disparities.
A theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross indicates five distinct stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The application of grief has historically been limited to a physical loss, many times applied to the death of a loved. However, in times such as these, the distinct stages of grief are applicable to the far reaching impact of the pandemic. The loss of facilitating life celebrations such as birthdays, graduations, retirements, holidays, funerals, and baby showers has been challenging. Furthermore, the loss of employment, health, safety (domestic abuse resources), and food security.
The stages of grief may sound a little something like this as you scroll through your social media platforms and/or communicate with others:
Denial: I have no underlying conditions, this does not apply to me.
Anger: I have been planning my birthday for months, I’m moving forward with my plans.
Bargaining: I have been doing so well with this social distancing thing, I think I should be able to have a few people over.
Depression: Everything is ruined. I can't do anything.
Acceptance: I am going to stay home and encourage others to do the same.
For some of us, our basic physiological needs have been threatened and/or exacerbated. As illustrated in Maslow's Hierarchy, some examples of physiological needs include: food, water, shelter, and clothing. The following level highlights essential need for security and safety, which include but are not limited to health, wellness, and financial well-being.
It is completely understandable that some of us are in a complete whirlwind, especially given that the COVID19 pandemic for some, may have occurred during a time when various life transitions were already underway. Moving forward, it is OKAY to identify with any stage of grief at any given time. People experience grief in a variety of ways and do not always move through each step in the order presented. Grief is complex and as we continue to navigate through this uncharted time, let us continue to show empathy to ourselves, others, and community in which we live.