The coronavirus is a universal human experience at this point. Everyone has heard about it and it has impacted everyone in some way. As this virus continues, I also think that it’s starting to impact us in different ways. I feel like there are some people who in general are handling it well overall. Others started off fine, until a few weeks passed and from then on it’s become a challenge. Then for some it’s been difficult from the beginning. And when I think about why we might process this differently, it really strikes me that this virus is really like a loss.
When we think about loss, we often think about death, but really loss isn’t just about when we lose a loved one. Grief and loss can be about losing anything that’s important to us. It can be losing a friendship. Losing a job. It can be anything we care greatly about, really.
When it comes to this coronavirus, I think that what we’ve lost can be different for each of us, but I think that for a lot of us what we’ve lost could be our sense of freedom. A lot of communities, states, and even whole countries are shut down right now, which means that it feels like we don’t have the same freedoms and abilities to do things that we used to have. This can be really difficult, because just last year this wasn’t the case. We’ve lived our whole lives being free to do essentially whatever we want, when we want to do it. Making this adjustment to no restrictions has been really hard for a lot of us.
Not only that, but for a lot of people it’s also this sense of losing hope or losing a mental image of what the future will look like. As we go about our lives, we start to picture what our future will look like; this isn’t always a conscious thing that we do, but it happens, and with this virus, there’s so much uncertainty that it’s hard to keep that picture alive. This can mean that we’ve also lost our image of the future, and that can feel like we’re losing hope. That can feel soul-crushing.
One thing that comes to mind about the idea of loss is that it’s like being tossed into the ocean in the middle of a storm. At first, it’s hard to breathe because the waves keep pulling you down and the water is so tumultuous that you can’t even tell which way is up. You feel like you’re drowning. Over time, the storm passes; you’re still in the ocean and the waves still crash over you, but at least you can see the waves coming.
All loss is hard to deal with. Loss is something that we all handle in different ways, but there are several stages of grief that are pretty common. If you look at the media, people in your community, or even reflect on yourself, I wonder how many of these stages you’ll recognize when it comes to the coronavirus and this idea of losing our freedoms and our future.
Denial - I think that a lot of us denied the severity of this virus in the beginning, and some may still be claiming that people are overreacting. When the virus first started to spread, tt was really common to hear people comment that it was just like the flu or that it would just blow over soon. It’s really hard to accept that our very way of life would change.
Anger - We don’t like to change, wear face masks, or stay at home. It’s really easy to understand why so much of this situation can make us feel angry.
Bargaining - I feel like I’ve seen this a lot with people trying to get their hair done during this virus, trying to barter or pay more money to get their hair cut even though things are supposed to be shut down and that could put their stylist’s license at risk. It’s almost this bargain to keep the old way of life alive, if we just get this over with for two weeks.
Depression - It’s really hard to realize that things are different now. It’s even harder to realize that we don’t know when things will go back to normal.
There is one final stage to grief and loss: acceptance. Acceptance can be hard to describe, but it’s almost this sense of calm and really an absence of the other stages. When it comes to the stages of grief and loss, there is no normal. We can bounce between the stages. There’s no certain amount of time that is considered “normal.” But one thing that I have noticed when we talk about this idea of loss, is that acceptance is typically talked about as the general goal. Yet it’s something that we cannot force.
It may be difficult, but given time, we will reach a point of acceptance. I think that we’ll adjust, and it will get easier. The storm will pass and we’ll be able to breathe.