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Grief: Step by Step Guide

There has been a lot of talk and writings on the concept of grief, as it relates to the global hurt we’re going through right now. This idea that we’re collectively missing what was normal only a month ago; all the bits and pieces we’ve used to define who we are, what we do, how things work. Structures, systems, behaviors and routines that have for so long, given us a perception there’s really just this one way of doing things; of being.

As proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying, there are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There have been many articles published, recently, breaking down the pandemic into these stages as a chronology to document where we are now and where we’re headed next, emotionally.

I’m not so sure there’s a linear progression with all of this. I personally feel like I volley back and forth among these phases constantly. Week to week. Sometimes day to day. And most times, there is more than one phase alive in me at the same time, fighting for full control of my psyche.

Take anger and bargaining, for example. Those two are an ugly mashup for me,

particularly when trying to reason my way through governmental ineptness or the tragic impacts this is having on our broken healthcare system.

Kübler-Ross talks about bargaining as our need to regain control through a series of “if only” statements (“if only we’d acted sooner”). And anger is well...anger. Some days I live here, empowered and informed. Other days, confused. Deflated. Because this is where contention arises, heated op-eds get written and party lines harden their edges. It’s the looking back for answers; grappling for some semblance of meaning through blame.

It’s not a nice place to be, but I come here often anyway.

And denial, yes. A stomping ground for sure. Not because I don’t believe Covid19 is real or any less devastating than it is, but because this can’t really be happening. There’s not seriously a deadly virus sweeping our entire planet. My kids are going to get to see their friends any day now.

Denial is a trixter, too, bringing levels of comfort to an otherwise rocky situation, only to shake and smack us around when we least expect it. This is happening. This is happening. This is happening.

If we suppose we’ll move through our pandemic grief one step at a time, I fear we’ll get lost in false hope again and again, blaming ourselves for not getting over it quickly enough. Seems the model is a bargaining mechanism in and of itself. If I overcome denial, then I can move on to anger -- and get one step closer to acceptance and ultimately, freedom!

It’s Monday morning and I feel humble and creative; optimistic. Two nights ago, I walked through dark streets of my (ghost) town choking on tears until I got home. Tonight will be something else. Noon on Tuesday. Dawn two Saturdays from now.

Who’s to say how grief hits and when? Some things we just can’t navigate linearly, with reason. Instead, we allow whatever is here to be We hold each other up and do what’s needed to take care of ourselves and the collective through all of this.

We will come out the other side.

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