Are You Grieving?
When I studied the “Five Stages of Grief” at university many moons ago I never thought it would be associated with a world-wide pandemic. This raging storm is literally sweeping the globe and killing thousands of people daily. As the waters begin to calm in my local ocean, it allows me time to reflect upon the last few months.
I begin to ask myself if the whole world has been grieving? It feels like we have all lost something, even if we haven’t lost a loved one. We are all battling the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Australia was not hit with the huge waves that America, China or Italy was, but it certainly had a major impact on our psyche and way of life. I had no idea that I was moving through my “5 Stages of Grief”. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Despair and finally, Acceptance.
When I initially heard about the Corona Virus in China, I rejected the whole thing completely. Although this virus was silently killing people across the globe, I naïvely thought it wouldn’t reach our island. I told myself we would be safe in Australia and that nothing will come all the way over here. I also told myself that the media is always blowing everything out proportion, so it probably is not that bad.
“Turn that tv off. It is all lies,’ I told my family. “Corona is just a beer here!”
When I moved to the next stage it had started to get serious. I was turning into a different person. Not the happy person I usually am, but I wasn’t the only one. By this point the COVID 19 was taking over the world. Everything was shut down including my gym, the shops, restaurants, and cafes. Society was starting to panic, and I was following suit. My 7-year-old daughter was riding her bike outside my house and a man drove by and swore at her to get off the street. Rage was building up in people everywhere.
We were told to practise social isolation. My husband and I started fighting almost immediately. Every household seemed to be dealing with more stress due to less money, jobs loss and families trapped under one roof. I began to wonder how many marriages would survive the Corona Virus. I was snapping at the kids for leaving things lying around on the floor and not going to bed on time. It felt like all the frustration and anger from my whole life had built up to this point and I was about to snap at any moment.
As society got more worked up, I became more frustrated and more anxious. I went shopping to buy food for my family of five and the shelves were bare, not even toilet paper. I was so upset with people’s ridiculous hoarding and selfishness. People were seen on the news physically fighting over the last item on a shelf at the shop. It was crazy!
It seemed like everyone I knew was home isolating and I too wanted to stay home with my children and keep everyone safe. Yet I was forced to work every day, even with my best efforts to get time off. I had to put myself at risk, along with many other essential workers (many like my family members of nursers teachers, childcare workers, and paramedics). Whilst others were complaining about being too “bored” at home we were full of fear and struggled to sort out childcare for our kids.
Oh God, numbers started to rise, and death cases continued to increase even as we followed the rules. I began watching the news, developing insomnia for the first time, drinking every night, not exercising, and living off junk food. At 3am the clock would be taunting me, then I would wake up the next day exhausted moving like a zombie through each day. Many people I knew weren’t coping well either. A friend of mine with three young children admitted to me that she spent a lot of time crying and drinking wine in the shower.
While I was depressed, a strange thing happened. I knew I had to snap out of this stage, but I did not know how. I would pretend to be positive around my children, be cool as a cucumber teaching my students at school, but inside I was feeling flat and hopeless. I was overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety about the future.
One day I was helping my daughter with her schoolwork and an amazing event happened. My 7-year had to complete a “gratitude paper chain.” I was feeling every emotion except gratitude at that point, but doing my best acting job at faking it. I insisted that all the children do this activity, including myself. By the end of it I had moved from DESPAIR to … ACCEPTANCE. Just like that. I guess I was ready.
From that point, I began to focus on what I was grateful for. I understood that I couldn’t control everything around me, but I could control how I dealt with it. I turned off the news, started meditating and exercising every day again. I stopped reading about the COVID 19 death stories and started posting positive images on my social media of nature. I reached out to my friends and they shared their struggles of fear and parenting through this tough time.
It appears we are all moving through the five stages of grief at our own time.
We are all dealing with this in our own way and it is all okay. We cannot beat ourselves up over it because it is a process not a race. We must be kind to ourselves and think of this as a grieving process.
Remember that every boat is different in this crazy corona storm!