For billions of individuals around the globe, the COVID -19 pandemic has forced many into crisis situations that they never expected to have to face. Each new day brings a new set of news updates — the rising case numbers, new deaths, and increased restrictions on public movement and interaction. The constant state of panic, dread and stress caused by so much death and suffering, can leave the most battle-hardened individuals facing mental health struggles.
This article will focus on depression and grief. When feelings of grief are protracted and severe it can cause reason for concern. Not only is the virus itself leaving a trail of physical illness, but the mental health implications are staggering. For many the pandemic has brought on a new experience of mental health difficulty. For others the increased global health crisis has only exacerbated their mental health problems.
The understanding of the common and natural experiences that occur in moments of grief can be calming to those suffering from loss of a personal nature, or for the massive loss of lives in general.
UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF GRIEF
Knowing the common stages of grief can help individuals know what is bothering them and why. According to grief specialist Elizabeth Kubler- Ross there are five stages of grief:
These emotions may appear in the sequence described above, or come in another order, even moving back and forth from one to the other. By knowing what you are experiencing at a particular time, you can make sense of your misery. If your feelings are too intense or protracted it is probably wise to seek the support of a mental health professional.
Let’s take a closer look at each step Dr. Kubler-Ross has identified….
The media coverage of COVID-19 has put the dangerous effects of denial on full display in our world. Denial can manifest itself by simply ignoring reality, as well as arguing against the truth to avoid the hard truth of the current reality.
It can be difficult to tolerate the reality of the situation related to COVID-19, and it is certainly not helped by others who try to convince you otherwise. But as one can see the death toll rising so dramatically, or if one has experienced a personal loss or losses, it can be so overwhelming that one may only seem to respond with denial. Once we recognize denial we can move on.
But denial may lead one to anger . The pandemic has led many to face unexpected feelings of lack of control and overall feelings of helplessness which are notorious for bringing up feelings of anger.
This anger is often directed at those who are suffering or dead … indicating a lack of acceptance of the loss.
Anger and the source or sources of such anger should not be minimized. One needs to have compassion toward oneself or others for having such feelings. I may also help to turn toward healthy habits such as exercise, mindfulness, and conversations with trusted friends … always knowing one may also wish to turn to a professional for relief and understanding of one’s experience.
Anger at COVID-19 may come quickly for individuals as they are bombarded with scenes of injustice and pain as well as personal loss. However, as anger subsides and the losses remain, people can begin to feel emptiness, loss of control and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which are hallmarks of depression. If the depression persists and interferes with your life, or is so strong one contemplates taking ones own life, it is definitely time to reach out for professional help.
A possible final stage prior to reaching a place of acceptance is known as bargaining. Bargaining occurs when there is a loss of a loved one or suffering of others. The person may then become convinced of thoughts such as “God should have taken me instead” or It should be me who goes or suffers instead”. Bargaining is yet another way of wishing that the current situation is not happening.
Bargaining makes sense if we wish for a way to feel in control when the loss or losses are just too much to bear. It temporarily gives a person a false sense of power over an uncontrollable situation.
The final stage is ultimately acceptance — seeing reality for what it really is. Acceptance very often is what we typically refer to as grieving. The person may likely experience bouts of uncontrollable weeping and deep sorrow. It also very often lends to the feeling that “this feeling will never end “… but allowing oneself to express their sorrow fully will ultimately lead to genuine acceptance and relief.
Nevertheless, it may take more than personal grit to finally reach a healthy state of acceptance in these days of COVID-19. If you are struggling to find peace or hope in the midst of any of the above stages and just cannot seem to get there on your own, and would like help, please feel free to contact me today.