The rather infamous phrase ‘The Five Stages Of Grief’ comes from the Kubler-Ross model, often quoted to those as a tool to deal with loss. It is safe to say that during Covid-19 every one of us in one way or another has experienced loss. Some albeit more than others, there is a strong sense across the country – even the world – that we are all experiencing the different stages of a global pandemic… together.
The series of emotions goes like this; denial, anger, depression, bargaining and finally, acceptance. The accuracy of this model is thought to be outdated and has lost its credibility to many scientists who believe it to be entirely unhelpful in dealing with loss. However, when it comes to a global pandemic it seems rather fitting. Since the beginning of the year we have lost loved ones, jobs, independence, the rhythm of a normal routine and speaking for myself – on occasion – my mind. So how are we dealing with not only our own worlds, but the world as a whole turning upside down?
Denial, the first stage of Kubler-Ross’s model. It won’t happen to me, it won’t happen to my family. It will pass in a few weeks. Most of us thought this, right? Denial comes from fear, the fear of the unknown, the fear of what’s to come. Having seen what happened in countries weeks before us, the idea of what was coming was incredibly scary… and thus ignored. In the stages of grief this is where people cling to an alternative reality, convinced it simply isn’t happening. Delving into the world of lockdown, drinking at 12pm on a Wednesday and doing your seventh quiz of the week became the new-norm. We rejected the idea and rejoiced in wearing the same pyjamas for five days straight. When we recognised that denial couldn’t continue – that this Covid-stuff is real – the second stage materialized.
Anger. If you’re anything like me you’ve tried to forget those few weeks of absolute panic where our country turned into a post-apocalyptic, loo-roll lacking society hoarding pasta and baked beans with a cap on how much we can buy at the super-market. Those were the days… Anger sparked and many of us became dinner table pandemic experts. Every conversation was about how we’ve done it all wrong, if the economy will survive and what we think should have happened. For the slightly more motivated anger gave rise to adrenaline and home workouts boomed. Joe Wicks became a prodigy. However, the biggest emotional response to anger is finding someone to condemn. You only had to watch the news for five minutes to see our politicians throwing blame around like a game of hot potato. We wanted answers and we wanted them now! When we didn’t receive them anger turned to depression, the third stage of grief.
Depression. For many of us those workouts stopped, the quizzes (finally) came to an end and enthusiasm for the indoors slowly declined. People were getting restless and bored, Houseparty dried up quicker than the hose-pipe bans and the UK faced a lull. This was the hard part, the part where if you didn’t have a garden you resented those that did. Suddenly nature and the outside world became a curious, treasured place. The one hour exercise window became the most important part of the day. It was in this stage that mother nature flourished. Without us she thrived and suddenly the classic saying “clear blue skies without a cloud insight” became “clear blue skies without a plane insight.” With pollen reaching its highest count in 70 years it felt as though the environment was reclaiming what once was theirs – nature. The fourth stage of grief runs parallel to depression and with depression you get bargaining.
Bargaining. In the global pandemic’s case, bargaining comes in all shapes and sizes. For many of us this was if I can’t have freedom I’ll have this instead which has been a blessing for Jeff Bezos who finds himself 24 billion dollars better-off than before the pandemic. Bargaining aids unnecessary purchases and in many cases people in their twenties are experiencing the classic mid-life-crisis-equals-buy-a-motorbike ordeal. But hey, why not? If not now then when, right? This is the stage where we question and barter. Do we have to go back to an office, and if not, can we do this instead? Eventually through bargaining and discovering a new-normal, learning to cope and adjusting to change we find ourselves in the final stage, acceptance.
Acceptance. For many of us this is creating pandemic resolutions and sticking to them or realising you haven’t spent the last three months becoming a yoga hotshot like you said you would in March but knowing that that’s ok. Learning that keeping yourself safe is the key to keeping others safe. Making plans for the future and realising you’re not alone in feeling slightly lost and unprepared for what’s to come. Learning that there’s a hell of a lot more going on in our world than just this pandemic and that things need to change. With acceptance there comes a sense of hope, we can’t change what’s happened but we can work together to change the future. So whatever stage you’re in, good luck – you’ve got this.
By Sophie Gilbert
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