Have you ever had the experience of a doctor telling you what was wrong with you, and even if you couldn’t really do anything, it helped to know what it was? Maybe it was just an ache or pain, a small illness. Just having a name for it — even some fancy latin term (or maybe especially some latin term) — somehow makes it seem better. Naming something helps us feel some control.
This pandemic has stripped us of many feelings of control. It more often feels like life is disrupted and dangerous. Early in the pandemic — but far enough in that it was clear we were headed down a long path — I was wondering why it took me so long to process that we were in for a long-haul… with implications for every segment of life. Why had I “missed” the signs?
Denial. That is what I realized. I had been playing the denial game.
Which reminded me that I was experiencing a grief response. I was in grief! From the pandemic. Well, the pandemic losses and impact.
Over the next few weeks, as I talked with individuals and organizations, I noticed that we were all in collective grief, as well as experiencing the individual grief. And as the pandemic has continued, I have noticed that people are experiencing the different stages of grief at different times. That very fact seems to be at the root of much of the struggles I see played out on social media and regular media. Clashing stages.
Still, stages. Grief comes in stages. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross noted 5 stages. Her colleague, David Kessler, has more recently added a potential 6th stage (an aspirational stage for many). The point of describing the stages is not so much to force people on through the stages. It is more for being able to name the stage for what it is. The capacity of looking at where you are and naming the stage gives a sense of control. And when we have some sense of control, we can choose whether we are where we want to be, or if we would rather shift. The shift becomes an option.
Or we can just name the stage and know that is what we are experiencing.
What stage of grief are you in? I discuss the 5+1 stages in this week’s episode of the Thriveology Podcast. Listen below.