What we are experiencing right now is unprecedented and many of us are in mourning, mourning the loss of the life we knew. For some of us mourning is more closer to heart as a loved one has been lost while for some it’s anticipatory grief (anxiety about future loss) mostly related to jobs & livelihood. For most of us it’s an unknown or rather unacknowledged component of uncertainty that we are afraid to look at, much less accept. Few days back Harvard Business Review published an excerpt from their interview with David Kessler (world’s foremost expert on grief) regarding current pandemic situation. Kessler was of the view that what we are feeling can be termed as grief.
The stages of loss were initially given by Ross and later along with Kessler five stages of grief model was formed. It’s a widely accepted model and most of our understanding about loss & grief comes from it. ‘Finding meaning’ is the sixth stage that Kessler added to grief last year (2019). The six stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, Finding Meaning. It’s important for us to remember there’s no fixed timeline from one stage to another and they may not be in same order for everyone but it’s an understanding and knowing that we all go through it. So some of us might be in denial( like going out without masks, or saying” You people are taking unnecessary precautions), anger over prevailing conditions and questioning God and maybe accusing God or lashing out on people. Some of us might be bargaining, trading it off with God, offering them bribes. Some have started losing hope and becoming depressed while others are coming to terms with the whole corona situation in its entirety but passively (“what else can we do? We are helpless”). Its quite heartening to see that quite a few of us are trying to and seeing meaning in this whole event. Our peace and power lies in acceptance and finding meaning. Finding meaning not just as to philosophizing why the event is happening but also in which meaningful direction are we headed in our own personal lives. And in this stage of finding meaning if we could really see the event through eyes of omniscient wisdom our grief would end.
Up till now most of us are doing fine but for those moments when overwhelm seems to be flooding us. Acknowledge your feelings rather than trying to brush them off without naming. There are many practices for dealing with emotions but if the feeling is of overwhelm our need is to be centered first. Daily practice of meditation increases our overall calm and decreases emotional reactivity but still be overwhelm can happen. A mindfulness practice for overcoming overwhelm is to shift one’s focus to current moment and realizing that in this moment ‘you are safe and provided for’. One can bring focus back to present moment through engaging the senses by naming 5 objects you see at that moment, 4 sounds you can hear, 3 things you can feel through your skin, 2 distinct smells and one thing to taste. Along with it also limit the amount of news intake and spend some time in activities that give joy rather than passive engagement.
Drop in your comments about which stage you think you are, how you are navigating it and what practices you are using. For those who want to read more here’s the link to the write up which inspired this post. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief