My tears started falling one week after the NBA canceled its season…
When the NBA made its announcement on Wednesday, March 11, my initial thoughts were, Are you serious?! This can’t really be happening that whole parts of our society and economy are being shut down.
Then on Thursday, March 12, when I heard that universities were shutting down and that church was suspended indefinitely, my initial feelings were shock and panic. When will I be able to go back to church, which I love? Will this be a repeat of 2008/2009? How many people are going to lose their jobs, businesses, and homes because of this situation? What is happening?!
Then in the following days, I experienced so many emotions from fear to anger to disbelief to deep sadness.
And on Wednesday, March 18, for the first time since this situation started, I cried. The cumulative effect of loss after loss in the present, already known losses for the future, and potential losses for the future filled me with grief.
As more and more of the things I know and love were taken away, I realized this must be what it feels like when you’re getting close to death. That feeling that any day, you could have your ability to do something taken away without you having any control of when or how that happens.
I cried every day from Wednesday until Monday, March 23, when we received the shelter in place orders in Michigan.
What I was experiencing, and what you are experiencing are the Five Stages of Grief.
The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
You may not experience them all, and you may not experience them in that order. But in this time, if you’re anyone in a country being significantly impacted by the coronavirus, you will experience at least some of them.
We are all experiencing macro losses, such as a lost job, a business decline, a canceled wedding, a funeral that doesn’t happen, a rescheduled convention, or a non-graduation. And we are all experiencing micro losses, like not being able to go to the gym, not being able to see people we know and love, not being able to travel, and not being able to do the small things that bring us great joy.
But two of the biggest losses that we are experiencing universally are a loss of safety and a loss of connection.
I’m going to walk you through what’s happening in those two areas because as it explains in this HBR article, That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief:
“When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”
If you’re aware of what’s happening to you, you can process and release it more quickly. And you can also prevent being stuck in a jail of your own mind once the restrictions lift.
Loss of Safety
Everyone whose lives are impacted by the response to the coronavirus are feeling a loss of safety. Some people feel that because they are afraid of getting the virus, particularly if they are older or immune compromised. Some people feel a loss of safety because they can no longer operate their businesses or may have just lost their job. And some people feel a loss of safety because they do not have the freedom of movement–that at least in America–we typically take for granted. Almost all Americans have never had fear of being able to travel domestically or even internationally, let alone fear of not being able to leave their house, as long as they were a law-abiding citizen.
In countries that aren’t democracies, it’s an ever present reality that they are not free. But for those of us who are Americans, we are awakening to the reality that we’re not as free as we thought and in the matter of less than two weeks, we could go from fully free to live our lives to sheltered in place.
All of this is a loss of innocence and needs to be honored and felt. Feel that you’re sad. Feel that you’re scared. Feel that you’re frustrated. Cry if you need to. Scream if you like (preferably not at someone though!) Go on a run on a trail. Journal it out.
And then re-center yourself in the present: Where am I now? What is actually happening? For me, one of the things that gave me comfort was to remember that there was so much I didn’t know, but I knew for certain that I wasn’t going to die, to starve, or to be homeless so I was going to make it through.
Loss of In-Person Connection
Although we are so blessed to have the ability to do phone calls and video calls, these kind of interactions are not an adequate replacement for face-to-face interaction. In fact, a lack of face-to-face interaction can double the chance of depression, and face-to-face interaction is especially important for older adults
This is something that we need to be exceptionally aware of during this time. Although a very small percentage of us are at risk of death or any significant physical harm from the coronavirus. 100% of us are at a very high risk of mental and emotional health issues both now and in the future, due to the social distancing measures taken at this time.
Be very conscious of how you stay connected. That could look like doing phone or video calls. Or better yet, even in areas with shelter in place orders, like Michigan, you are still allowed to go hike on trails. So you can go hike on a trail and have a friend meet you as long as he or she stays about six feet away from you as you go. This is a fantastic stress buster and a boost to physical, mental, and emotional health.
Also, it’s good to be aware that the current situation is leading to a form of insecure attachment style called avoidant attachment. You won’t be able to completely overcome this until all the restrictions are lifted. But once they are, be aware that you do want to connect with people, that it’s a good thing to be close to people, and that relationships are the breath of life.
I know that it’s so hard right now, but we’re going to make it through–together.
About Real Life E
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She was named one of the World’s Top 30 Time Management Professionals by Global Gurus. The Christian division of her company focuses on a God-centered approach to time management through Divine Time Management.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review published her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. FaithWords published her third book Divine Time Management: The Joy of Trusting in God’s Loving Plans for You. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.