Grief

There is a lot to be in denial about. A lot to be angry about. Depression. Bargaining with our healthcare system, government, creditors, families and futures. These are the phases of grief, and we are all in process together. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. And lastly, somehow, we will begin finding acceptance.

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Most often grieving is something we do alone, in relative seclusion. We feel others cannot understand our loss and the depth of our anxiety, anger or depression. Grief is usually lonely. Even with the best support of others.

But what we have been given here is the mandate to grieve collectively in quarantine. Six feet away from hugs. Socially distanced. Closed off from the jobs, activities and places we would otherwise have busied ourselves within. Even though we are isolated, confined to our homes, we all know deeply that we are not in this alone. Globally, we know others are in the same place. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

Within the walls of our homes we are faced with ourselves. Whether you are home alone, self-sufficient or dependent on others. Happily in relationship. Horribly in relationship. Little kids. Teenagers. Adult family. Addictions. Mental illness. Physical illness. Chronic pain. Chronic stress. Binging on NetFlix or on yoga classes. Cooking. Cleaning. Creating. Trying. Grieving. Doing the best we can. Collectively this is the world stage.

Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

These stages were first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in 1969 to explain what people go through during loss, specifically around terminal illness. But grief is all around us. We suffer loss all the time. It would be healthy if we all let ourselves fully experience it. But we deny. We get angry. We become depressed. Anxious. We medicate. We blame. We barter. We almost get there, but fall back into the loop before we accept, integrate and move on.

Even though they are synonyms, I don’t think ‘acceptance’ means that we have to agree with what has happened. There doesn’t have to be approval or consent. Just acquiescence, submission, compliance. For whatever reason this all happened, we all wish it hadn’t. We wish we still had a source of income. We wish we were not entertaining and ’homeschooling’ our kids all day. We wish we could go do the things that made us feel ‘normal.’

We can deny it all and try to escape in a variety of forms. We can get mad and pissy with one another. We can cry. Be apathetic. Be empathetic. We can do all of these things in a given hour. And we are. All over the world.

This is not the lonely grief that separates us. This is the combined, communal, mutual grief that bonds us. Nobody can play the martyr and stall progression. The vigor that drives survival slacks when it all becomes chronic. An over-worked, burned-out survival instinct has landed humanity at a fork in the road where people will have to choose how they settle into coping.

Amidst the bargaining, we must try to negotiate the pieces back together. We have to reach out to others. We have to share our stories. Many who have never accepted help from others will have to. Many who have never worn the heart of a ‘helper’ will have to become one. New options will have to be explored. A new plan. All of this must happen, in whatever order it does, before we can move on. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

Be it a global pandemic, it is an individual choice. All of those individual choices will add up to something brand new. Acceptance. Equanimity. Hope. Certainty that it will all be ok, even if we can’t possibly begin to know exactly how.