“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
As I work through this new paradigm I realise that I’ve actually been grieving.
Grieving the loss of the World we lived in just a few short weeks ago, grieving the future that I had planned out so well and was executing just perfectly, grieving the life I had dreamed of for my child, grieving what I knew to be.
The World has changed. Never in 5000 years of documented history has the human population experienced what we are going through right now. We are living in the most extraordinary time. What this does to the psyche of human civilisation is yet to be seen and the World as we knew it has ended.
A very civilisation that is built for and thrives on community has been stripped back to the bare essentials to survive. How you respond is up to you. Will you be a victim or will you be a master of your circumstance and who will you emerge as when we finally come into our new normal?
According to Swiss – American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are 5 stages of processing grief and understanding this model has allowed me to come to terms with this new emotional journey I am on.
Since we all process emotions differently, no doubt we are at different stages of this model which is exactly what I am witnessing on social media, on the news channels and as I browse the web for personal blog posts.
These 5 stages are all part of our will to survive, our primal fight or flight, an extension of our experience with the World we live in and how we respond to external stress.
Denial – This first stage helps us survive the loss. It gives us time to process what has happened and come to terms with our situation. Denial is a state of shock and helps us simply get through the day. At this stage it is very difficult to be proactive because we are still processing what is happening which prevents us seeing the big picture. As we move through the denial phase and start to put the story together our feelings begin to surface.
Anger – from our denial state of being lost in a void to this angry state which gives us somewhere to project our emotions, this stage seems to have no boundaries and feels like it will go on forever. But anger is an important part of our healing process and allowing us to really feel angry will help us heal more fully. We may feel angry at friends, family, officials, everyone or someone in particular. Anger is our connection to the loss and gives us something to focus on, a reason to continue, an indication of our love for someone or something that we have lost. The best thing we can do at this stage is let it out. Allow the anger to rise, feel it, express it and be okay with this part of the process. Even though it seems to know no boundaries, there is an end to this seemingly endless road.
Depression – Moving into the present we start to become acutely aware of our new reality and move into a deep, soulful grieving of what has been left behind. Depression at this level is not a mental illness and is an important stage of dealing with grief. The depression may be a light state, a lack of energy, struggling to find joy in the most simple activity or it can be a deep, dark hole that feels like we are dropping into forever. If we understand that depression is a phase of grieving then maybe we can allow our body to experience these feelings, sleep a little more, take time out and know that this is a process. During the depressive stage it may be difficult for us to practice self care and self love but this is when it is most important. Eat healthy, steer clear of drugs and alcohol and meditate more. It’s important to understand that depression is our experiencing a great loss and it is okay to feel this way.
Bargaining – often fraught with guilt and thoughts of ‘what if’s’. This stage can come and go, it can overlap the other stages in a non linear way and is partly responsible for helping us come to terms with our new reality. Thoughts like “if only I had done this, said this, acted like this” are common and we spend time trying to figure out what role our words, actions or thought process played in our current situation even if it was out of our control. Coupled with thoughts like “I am going to devote myself to….” And everything will be better, different or back to normal gives us something tangible to focus on even if we never follow through with the tasks. Bargaining can interrupt our bouts of anger or depression as we process our new reality and try and figure out how we are going to live with it.
Acceptance – personally I can not tell you how this will feel. I am definitely not here yet. I can see it, and I am working towards acceptance but for now it is out of reach. Having said that, acceptance does no mean being ‘okay’ with something. It is more about being able to live with, being able to move on and being able to grow within our new way of living. Once we accept this new life we will be able to forgive those people who we may not see eye to eye with, plan for our future constructively and even start to evolve, expand and grow beyond where we thought was previously possible. Acceptance is about realising our new way of life as a reality and not pretending that things will ‘go back to normal’ or that this is ‘just temporary’. Acceptance is truly seeing the potential of this new life and being okay to move forwards with it.
I’m not sure how long it will take me to accept this new reality. Although I am past the most angry stage and I can see that there is an opportunity to grow, I am working towards a growth phase rather than living in it. Honestly I am quietly sad, maybe in a low level of depression. Sad for the future my son will never have, sad for a reality I did not choose and sad for the choices we may no longer be able to make for ourselves. None of what is happening is an absolute surprise but personally I am in a little bit of shock at the speed of which things have changed and how forcibly it has happened, dividing my community and causing disharmony amongst friends.
I am moving towards finding peace with this new World we live in, knowing that the answers I was searching for may not be as important as my own healing right now. I am finding a way to feel the love and compassion I felt just a few short weeks ago, moving out of the darkness and into the light with an emerging realisation that I can create my own reality regardless of the World out there. It is okay to grieve, it is okay to feel any or all these emotions in one day, one week, one month, one year. It is okay not be be okay right now and it is okay to be you.