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The stages of grief when you’re going through something hard

stages of grief
Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

You’ve probably heard of the stages of grief. We think of them when we talk about bereavement over the death of a loved one.

But the stages of grief apply to other endings like the post-divorce period, too. I’m beginning to think the stages of grief apply to pandemic isolation as well.

If that’s true, I’ve entered the anger stage. My patience has turned to anger over being unable to book a vacation. Heck, over the inability to plan my life in any meaningful way right now.

Travel has provided a huge source of joy in my life. Vacations stood out as beacons that got me through the grind of everyday life.

With the removal of such basic freedoms, I’m experiencing a personal wrestling with the stages of grief. Maybe you are, too.

So what are the stages of grief?

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first applied these stages to the process of dying. We now apply them to all kinds of grief. Kubler-Ross herself agreed that’s appropriate and reminded us the stages aren’t always linear.

Grieving after a loss, be it a job, relationship, or loved one, is normal and necessary. However, our culture can be impatient with grief. It rewards those who appear to get over things quickly by calling them strong.

Our culture can be impatient with grief. It rewards those who appear to get over things quickly by calling them strong. Click To Tweet

But it’s not strong to skip over grief and deny your feelings. In fact, denial means staying stuck in the first stage of grief.

stages of grief

Anger as a mask in the stages of grief

According to grief literature, the anger I’m experiencing over loss of control in my life masks other emotions.

Because anger gives you a false sense of control and power, it covers feelings of powerlessness in these uncertain times.

I’ve witnessed the bargaining stage of the pandemic in statements such as, “If only we had locked down sooner,” or “if only our leaders had handled things differently.”

Like anger, bargaining gives us a false feeling of control when things seem out of control. It’s a facile way of trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense.

We see depression during the pandemic with an increase in suicide rates. Grief can make us feel as though life is no longer worth living.

Acceptance means moving forward

Acceptance happens when we begin to move forward in our lives. You may feel like a different person at this stage.

Yet, you may revert back to other stages at times. As mentioned, the stages are not linear and you may not go through all of them.

With the pandemic, it’s hard to reach acceptance because nothing’s settled. Should we accept a life in which travel and cultural activities are off limits? Or where we have to line up for food and only gather with people online?

With the pandemic, it's hard to reach acceptance because nothing's settled. Should we accept a life in which travel and cultural activities are off limits? Click To Tweet

No, acceptance in this case must come through making peace with uncertainty. I must surrender control over how things will play out. When and whether life goes back to normal remains out of my hands.

Some say the sixth stage of grief is finding meaning in the loss. Finding meaning in grief is simply using the experience as a way to grow.

It may involve helping others going through the same thing. Look how many foundations have started as a result of grief.

For me, inner peace depends on trusting God with all my feelings and fears. When I look to myself or my government for security, that’s when my mind gets chaotic and panic sets in.

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