There are definite stages of grief as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined in her groundbreaking 1969 book On Death & Dying and expanded on in collaboration with David Kessler in On Grief & Grieving
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
As the title suggests, her work was primarily related to people who were terminally ill and those who had lost a loved one.
Over the years these concepts were expanding to anyone who experiences a loss. It could be losing a loved job, ending a meaningful relationship, experiencing the demise of a favored pet, or any number of events that entail loss.
Including the current situation we all find ourselves in.
This is a different world we've suddenly been plunged into. Much of it has screeched to a halt. Everything is different and for perhaps the only time in the personal history of most of us we are removed from much of what our lives entailed.
So what does it mean for you?
Well, there will likely never be another time like this. A time when combined with the fear surrounding this deadly virus and a sea change of epic proportions in the manner with which we carry on our lives we are confronted with ourselves. Forced to come to grips with who we are at our core.
Anyone can talk a good game about how they might react to a crisis, but until rehearsals are over and the situation lands in their lap, the character of a person is an unknown.
You want to know the true character of a person?
Check out the folks hoarding and buying out scarce products at the stores.
Notice those who ignore the social distancing recommendations thus endangering all they encounter.
Read the social media outbursts from both sides using this calamity to pass along blame to whichever party or ideology they’ve been duped into thinking is the enemy.
But thankfully we have heroes.
The Health Care Workers who are too busy being on the front lines of this epidemiological warfare to spend time amassing goods.
They cannot socially isolate because they are in the business of caring for others.
Oh, and as far as distributing blame to a particular side of the aisle like so many are eager to do? You don’t hear much about that on the front lines.
You see, when the boat tips over and you and your fellow passengers are suddenly ass deep in alligators you don’t have the luxury of time to spend figuring out whose fault it was.
Take a peek at those who are entrusted with keeping our community and its residents safe. Our law enforcement personnel, fire department and other first responder folks. Carrying out their prescribed duty despite obvious dangers beyond the usual varieties they face
Think about grocery workers who put themselves at risk from the sheer volume of people they encounter daily, the truck drivers pulling overtime because the demand exceeds the number of drivers licensed for the big rigs and others who are still working the jobs deemed essential.
Then of course are their families, who are forced to make even more adjustments because of the exposure factor.
A while back I began a collection of quotes thought to be appropriate to the moment for use in a column of this nature. Soon after this endeavor started, N3 contributor Kathy Morrison, by coincidence or karmic intervention, posted the first one I had on my list.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
From J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, the quote centers in on the fear of the unknown. Certainly we wish this had not happened. Of course it’s unfair. But once again, feeling angry or sad, while appropriate emotions to be sure, cannot deter us from the second part of the quote.
This is the time that has been given us. So what do we do with it?
I responded to her post with the second quote on my list from Terry Pratchett’s novel I Shall Wear Midnight.
“At such times the universe gets a little closer to us. They are strange times, times of beginnings and endings. Dangerous and powerful. And we feel it even if we don't know what it is. These times are not necessarily good, and not necessarily bad. In fact, what they are depends on what we are.”
These are undoubtedly strange times and I am certain there have been and will be many endings and some beginnings during the coming days, weeks and perhaps months.
And how it affects us is substantially dependent on what we are.
What we are as individuals, what we are as a community and what we are as a people.
There has existed a great deal of divisiveness before this infectious intrusion and the collective anger and distrust seems to have only escalated as the sides we’ve been relegated to continue the attempt to pass blame on each other. I’m not naive enough to think this comes to an end.
But if for even the briefest of moments in time this could be put on hold... to practice being the very best we can and assume others are doing the same.
To accept those among us who are steeped in denial, caught up in anger, bargaining with common sense, depressed about the situation and hopefully striving for some level of acceptance.
Because acceptance isn’t submission. It’s not surrender. It taps into the most evolved trait we humans have, the ability to adjust.
I have always subscribed to the notion that there are but 3 problem solving methods.
The first? Change the problem. Works well when it's a flat tire or a leaky sink but many things just can’t be easily fixed. Like a raging, relentless virus.
The second? Escape. This one gets a lot of bad press but there are times escape can be a solution. Unfortunately this isn’t one. You can’t outrun this.
The third is foolproof. Works every time.
Change yourself and adjust.
We are remarkably resilient and whatever appears to be insurmountable can often be overcome, but not until we accept and adjust.
Oh and the third entry in the COVID quote list?
It came from the mystic philosopher of Ancient China, Lao-Tzu
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
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