Written by Jessica Michels, LISW-S
Grief is looming around so tangible it feels like you could touch it in the air. Cancelled sports, graduations, family trips, and community events are losses that every family is being affected by during this global pandemic. The losses during this time are endless and impossible to tally. It’s a feeling that is difficult if not impossible to define, yet it is so universal we all feel it and the impacts. The stages of grief are evident in society and its toll on the mental health of everyone in our communities.
The initial stage of grief is shock and disbelief, “This isn’t true” Struggling to be believe that reality of the situation is happening. People want to know how this could happen and why? Unprecedented changes in our communities are rapidly happening. Schools closing for the year, cancelled sports seasons, and no clear path back to normalcy. The initial shock can take longer for some people than others to overcome, for some they may need assistance in sorting out the feelings to move through the stages.
The second stage is denial, “This can’t be happening” Many people are still in this stage in our community locally and around the world related to the global pandemic. This stage of grief is overwhelming and often causes people to shut down or try to rationalize the situation and not fully accept it. This stage of grief is the reason for so many that they continue to try to debunk the reality of the circumstances and normalize the tragedies occurring. Acknowledging the state of affairs is to admit that people around you including yourself might be at risk or in danger. Talking through the situation and having support and guidance is needed for some people to move from this stage.
The third stage of grief is anger, “This isn’t fair” In our world we are seeing the reality of many happenings that are devastating and unfair. We know that loss is a reality but can’t find the reason, which makes it traumatic and leaves people searching for the meaning of everything. Symptoms of depression may appear making it more difficult for someone to get out of bed, get dressed, or find meaning through their day. Working through anger and fear can be a process and some may need assistance.
The fourth stage of grief is bargaining or in this situation maybe survival, “If I can do this, maybe that will happen”. This part of grief may engage some fight or flight responses. This feeling may propel the person to act to protect themselves or others. Bargaining can be very difficult because in this stage of grief the absolute reality of the situation is present and very real. Finding hope and purpose are important during this time.
The final stage is acceptance “This is real” Acceptance creeps in a little at a time. For me it’s like working on a giant project and dividing it into small working pieces. If I think about the entire process, I become overwhelmed, but if I focus on each piece I have control over it and its manageable. Learning to not become overwhelmed during acceptance but to take one small bite at a time is important to making peace with it.
Grief is intricate as it weaves itself in our day and can change stages and present new challenges, even when we thought we had overcome it. During this uncertain time we are still moving forward and navigating the complex feelings it brings. During grief it is important to remember to look for joy, hope, and solutions. CHOICES mental health team is here to help navigate these feelings and help in your search for hope.
Jessica Michels, LISW-S is the Clinical Director of CHOICES, Inc. She manages the home-based services program and oversees mental health services for foster care and independent living. CHOICES continues to accept referrals to provide youth mental health services to children who have a Medicaid provider. To make a referral or learn more about our program please click here.