Every individual in the world is experiencing a shared sense of loss as a result of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Our situations, circumstances and degrees of loss are different – some, of course, are worse than others. Yet we are all grieving over the way life has changed.

What’s making this even more complicated is the tremendous degree of uncertainty. Not even the “experts” can predict the outcome. Will life ever go back to the way it was?

We are all in this together. Understanding and making sense of our feelings will help. So, to help you understand the emotions that you and your loved ones are experiencing, I am sharing information about the stages of grief.

The five stages of grief were theorized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Her book, On Death and Dying, was an international bestseller. These are the stages:

Shock and denial are first. It defends us from being overwhelmed by a tsunami of emotions. It’s a refusal to accept the facts, consciously or unconsciously. There is a sense of unreality.

  • Is this really happening?
  • I can’t believe it.
  • I feel numb.
  • It won’t happen to me or anyone I love.

Anger is next. It helps us to protect ourselves from the pain and fear that is right underneath the surface.

  • Everyone’s overreacting. I’m not going to change anything I’m doing.
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • How can the governor close everything down?
  • I’m not going to get paid!
  • This isn’t fair.

Bargaining is a means of trying to find a way out, to have power over what’s happening, to avoid reality.

  • Please don’t tell me this is happening.
  • I’ll give anything to wake up and find this was a bad dream.

Depression happens when we realize we can’t change the loss.

  • This is hopeless.
  • I’m going to lose my job.
  • We are going to lose our house.
  • It’s never going to get better.

Acceptance comes slowly when we move towards understanding that this is reality.

  • We don’t have control over the virus.
  • We can follow the recommended guidelines, physical distancing, washing our hands, self-isolating if we are exposed, and do what can to stay healthy.
  • If we get the virus, there’s a good chance we will get through it.

Bob and I went through some of these stages in the last couple of weeks. We spent two days in our “virtual” Psychotherapy Networker conference with 1300 other therapists. It was a great distraction from Coronavirus and was a way of keeping our heads in the sand to deny all that was happening.

When the conference was over, there was anger: I was angry this was happening; that I wouldn’t be able to see clients in our office, that our government’s response didn’t seem quick enough, that we have several relatives who work in hospitals on the front lines; that our relatives in NY are at high risk.

Anxiety has also reared its head. Bob and I both had trouble sleeping and some bad dreams. Even had one last night. The theme is someone attacking me and not being able to defend myself.

Over the last week, we reached out to friends and family members. We had Zoom Dinners and Facetimed with people close to us.

We transitioned our practice to seeing clients on video (in a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform). So glad we can continue to provide support to folks we work with. Doing virtual work is not our preference, but it is great to have that option during this time.

Sadness and feelings of depression hit me today. I felt a sense of panic. What if our parents or kids became ill and we couldn’t see them?

Acceptance is coming but it may take a while. I’m not quite there yet.

These stages do not necessarily occur in order or in a sequential way. But in one way or another, you may feel all of them. Please know they are normal.

Like every couple, Bob and I have different ways of coping. It’s important to know that people respond differently. What’s vital is for couples to make room for each person’s way of responding to the pandemic grief.

We are here if you, individually or as a couple, need support.

In case you missed it, check out our article on:

Surviving the Coronavirus: 9 Practical Steps – You and your partner are confined to your house to stop the spread of COVID-19. What do you do now? Lori shares how she and Bob cope.

Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.

Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, info@relationshipswork.com.

Photo credit Anna Shvets on Canva