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It’s likely you’ve heard about “The 5 Stages of Grief”.  The psychological theory has typically utilized with the loss of a loved one.  It was originally developed based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s studies with patients and their reactions to receiving a terminal diagnosis.  The funny thing about not-so-funny grief is that it can be experienced in any situation of loss.  The failure of a career, a relationship, or the unfulfillment of the dream are just a few.  What I did not expect was to find myself on this roller coaster of emotion during quarantine.

What are the five stages of grief?

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The five stages are not necessarily linear.  Meaning, people can experience them in a different order.  Some may not experience all of the stages.  Or, you’re like me and go around the entire carousel during a five-minute span.  What I want to know is here are those people who run into the arms of acceptance?  I need a little bit of whatever mind magic you are using.

Hello, Five Stages of Grief?!

I’m a clinically licensed therapist. In training, we were taught not to diagnose ourselves.  Or your family, even though I find that quite entertaining.  A couple of weeks ago I could no longer deny that I was struggling  

I found myself questioning “Why?”.  I have been incredibly blessed through this entire mess.  My husband is an essential worker and I was able to work from home.  My children, albeit nutty, were able to complete home learning.  We had lights, food, water, and our church family was often dropping things on our porch.  

One particularly rough afternoon, I put the twins down for a nap, turned on the tv for the big kids.  Then, I sat in the bathroom and pondered on the pot. “What’s wrong with me?”  I’m not sure what it is about the thinking power of bathrooms but it finally hit me!  I was experiencing grief.  

A Caucasian hand hold a black iPhone.  The background is white.  The picture on the phone is a black and white image.  The image is of an emoji.  The emoji is wearing a mask and appears to be distressed.  There is sweat running down the side of the emoji's face.

Thank you, Disney

I felt a little better now that I had put a name on it.  I stood up from the training potty I was sitting on and walked into my living room. My three oldest children were sitting quietly on the couch.  They were watching Frozen II.  If you’ve not seen it yet, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.  The plot entails Anna and Elsa grappling with the impact of their lives before and after the major life event; the passing of their parents. Interesting how it follows other similar Disney movie storylines like Bambi, Dumbo, and Rise of Skywalker.  I digress.

My brain then had a second revelation.   My grief wasn’t for me.  It was for my children and the uncertainty in life that THEY will now face.  So much of our human existence is based in social contact.  What does a “good game” handshake look like after a junior high basketball game?  How do you socially distance on a roller coaster ride?  Will they be able to dance with their high school sweetheart without the anxiety that they might make them ill?  

I’ve decided to share my journey with you.  It’s been therapeutic for me to put the pen to paper, so to speak.  It’s also my hope that if you feel similarly, you won’t feel alone, even if you’re stuck in your house.  If you didn’t experience these emotions, that’s cool too.  We’re different and that’s why I like people.  Variety is the spice of life!

My Five Stages of Grief

Denial

It’s not just a river in Egypt.  (Get it… like Da Nile?!).  All joking aside, I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that we have been “sheltering in place” for approximately EIGHT weeks.  We received news on Friday the 13th, of March, that school was cancelled for likely the rest of the month.  Try not to get superstitious. 

The place where I call “home” is subject to long winters.  Coupled with our rural location, it’s not uncommon to miss a week of school throughout the year due to heavy snow or icy conditions.  Thinking back to the last day of work, it felt like there was a blizzard in the forecast.  Unlike the mountains of snow and ice that typically grace our landscape, quarantine didn’t melt away.  The roads weren’t cleared.  We never made it back into session.  

Anger

It burned brightly.  I’m not proud of it but I’m going to be honest.  Positivity is typically my presence of choice.  I was like “hey, we are all in this together” until I found out that we weren’t.  I was incredibly heartbroken when I found out that leaders in my state government had assumed a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do behavior in regards to the “stay-at-home” order.  

Politicians are not perfect.  In fact, they suffer from the same condition as the rest of us in quarantine: humanity.  But as much as I tried to rationalize, I couldn’t.  I still can’t.  Turns out that my inner animalian momma-bear brain had been poked with a big ol’ stick.  I felt like my cubs were stuck in the back of a dank cave while the alphas were letting theirs run all over the meadow.  

Bargaining

The bargaining stage was not flattering.  It was a little desperate, a little wacky, and there were things said that probably cannot be retrieved.  I started the “What if I”… and I would fill in the blank with just about anything that I could think of to get quarantine to finish sooner. First, I started with state legislators.  Then, I called my senator, my representative, and even wrote the governor.  No luck folks, I tried.  However, I am pleased to report the office staff is quite amicable.  

The ideas I had after may have ventured into the bizarre.  I love people.  I’m a people person.  What can we do to get more human contact?  Fortunately, my husband is a patient man.  When I began a sentence with “What if we…” he would usually follow up with a poignant question.  Things like  “How would you get a human-sized hamster ball through a standard door frame?” and “Is this where you want to be when Jesus comes back?”  And yes, Joe Dirt, my hair is so bad that at this point that stitching a mullet wig to my head would look better.  

Depression

The brightness of the flames was soon countered by the coldness of the sadness that followed.  At one point I just let the tears flow.  I cried for my kids and what this experience might cost them.  

When I think about my life, it’s not been perfect.  But darn it, it’s also been pretty amazing.  The best parts of it have always been because of the people.  Even if at one point in the future and things go back to “normal”, how will they see the world?  The comforting touch of others feels weaponized.  Will they ever just give a hug without worry?  How will we ever be able to go to a playground without concern?  Will the butterflies of holding hands with their high school sweethearts be grounded by paranoia?

A silver iPhone is laying on top of a piece of upholstered fabric.  The fabric is gray with a darker gray irregular floral pattern.  The emoji is black on a white background.  The emoji is squinting and appears to be crying.  There are tears that are running down the emoji's face.

Acceptance

I’m cool now.  At least in that, I feel relief in knowing what I’m experiencing isn’t all that out of the norm.  Do I accept that fear will govern my and my children’s lives? No. I don’t think that you should either.  We have been reminded that no matter our technological advances nor our medical miracles, we are still mortal.  And yet, this has also given us reason to be grateful for the days that God has given us to walk this Earth.  Zig Ziglar once said ““F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything and Run,’ or, ‘Face Everything and Rise.”

Which one will you choose?

Many thanks for reading this post on the five stages of grief. I invite you to check out my other posts on parenting at mommster.com.