“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”– African Proverb
The six stages of our current F**KED up “being” are akin to the six stages of grief, only we are not allowing ourselves to travel through them as we should (we can’t travel anywhere)! There are no unicorns and rainbows at the end of this unless we come to terms with and accept that it is alright to be in denial, angry, disbelieving and all the other adjectives you care to insert here……….
I am not suggesting that you ask for permission, only that you accept whichever stage you are in and work through it. We can’t all have skipped to acceptance yet because this s**t show is like a yo-yo and we are still unsure every day. No one has the magic bullet for the cure to the virus let alone the cure for our sanity, jobs, relationships or our economies.
So at the risk of upsetting people let me provide a gentle reminder, no amount of your “how to guides” or “ooohhh look at the work we have done via zoom” is ever going to be effective until we act as the Humans we are and support each other with authenticity and compassion. Read through 1 to 6:
Denial, the first stage of grief, is necessary to help us survive a loss and we have all lost something in this COVID situation. Maybe we are in a state of shock because the world as we knew it no longer exists. Maybe we start to deny the news because we are clinging to a “preferred” reality, instead of the true reality of the situation. This type of denial actually serves an important role. It helps us to cope with and survive the initial event. It’s a natural defence mechanism. It’s nature’s way of saying there is only so much a person can handle at one time.
The next stage of grief, anger, is a very necessary part of the process. First, it’s a transition from the denial stage. In other words, you’re starting to move from the “preferred” reality of denial to the “actual” reality that now exists in your life. Second, anger can give you a temporary structure. Your life has been altered and it might feel like you have no grounding. The direction of anger, even if it’s “unfair” in hindsight, can begin to bind you back to a sense of connection with others. It’s something to grasp onto. While anger is generally frowned upon in our society, it’s very important to allow the anger in. Even though it may seem endless, it’s important to feel it. The more anger you allow yourself to feel, the quicker it will dissipate. Of course, there are many emotions under the surface of anger, and there is a lot of pain, but there will be time to deal with those underlying emotions down the road a bit.
Bargaining is a form of false hope. It’s a form of “negotiation” with yourself or with a higher power that serves as a way to try to avoid the grief. It’s a willingness to make a major change in your life to bring things back to the way they used to be.
Depression follows bargaining. It’s the phase where you accept that your attempts at avoidance and bargaining are futile. Reality begins to set in, and grief tends to enter your reality in a major way. The grief is often much deeper and persistent than you could have imagined and often feels like it’s never-ending. It could manifest in feelings of wanting to withdraw from life, feelings like nobody could possibly understand what you’re going through or help you feel better, and feelings of pure sadness. It’s important to know that this depression is normal and appropriate for a major upheaval. It’s at this stage that you realize the true magnitude of what has gone and that it’s not something you should try to “will” yourself out of. Of course, you want to learn to “live again”, but that’s only possible after giving grief it’s time.
Acceptance should not be confused with everything suddenly being “all right.” In fact, most people never again feel “all right” after a major upheaval. The acceptance stage is simply about coming to terms with the fact that you realise that the new normal is a new potentially permanent reality. It’s not about learning to like the new reality. It’s about learning to live with this new normal. It’s about learning to readjust to life by taking on new roles or assigning them to others. It’s not about replacing what we had, but instead about making new connections and relationships. It’s about beginning the process of learning, exploring, and evolving into a new day-to-day reality.
6. Finding Meaning
Many people talk about finding the “new normal” whatever that is? I think we need to learn how to move forward in a way that acknowledges our success and failures from the past with a focus on how we forge collaboration and trust rather than command and control. Maybe this was Mother Nature taking care of us and her planet after all? The point is we don’t know, we will probably never know and so we should stop focusing on where we were and look at where we are going!