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Coping with Extreme Change (#3)

Coping with Extreme Change (#3)

Applying the 5 Stages of Grief Model to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Part 3 of 3)

DJ Spigener, LMHC

Since March 2020, the U.S. has been facing a national health crisis which is unprecedented in recent history.  Phrases such as “social distancing”, “personal protective equipment”, and “flatten the curve” have become ubiquitous, while many families are facing new challenges related to employment, socialization, or childcare.  Our normal routines are anything but “normal” right now. 

In such tumultuous and unfamiliar times, it is important to remind ourselves that the loss of normalcy, routine, and predictability we have all experienced can have a profound impact on us and those around us.  Each of us may react in different ways, and at different paces, to this disruption in our lives.  In order to better understand the reactions many of us may have to these profound changes, it is helpful to view the loss of normalcy through the lens of the Five Stages of Grief Model (originally created by Kubler-Ross). 

We will be covering the final stage of this model in today’s article: Acceptance.

  1. Acceptance: The Acceptance stage is often viewed as the “goal” or resolution of the Grief Process. Acceptance is a state of acknowledgement and honesty with ourselves about the reality of our present situation.  Acceptance does not imply that we enjoy the outcome of the loss, or that we may not still have memories and feelings of longing for the subject of our grief.  It is simply a personal choice to no longer allow ourselves to dwell on those thoughts and feelings, but rather to begin looking ahead and taking steps to move forward in our new reality.

It is important to note the potential for variation in the duration, pace, and process each individual may go through in their personal journey of grief & loss.  While some may be more adept at confronting harsh realities and difficult changes, the often jarring disruptions that can accompany significant loss can lead others to feeling “stuck” at different stages.  As long as the individual is moving through the Stages of Grief, however quickly or slowly that may be, and is not allowing themselves to remain in the Denial stage, then their process is valid and should be respected.  Attempts to force someone into Acceptance before they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to do so may backfire and result in more dysfunction.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, Acceptance may take the form of an individual becoming more open to hearing and considering scientific or medical evidence about the virus, following social distancing and face covering guidelines in their local area, or a decrease in defensive or hostile communication around the topic.  In some cases, individuals may not be willing to accept the reality of the crisis until they are directly impacted in some way.  As with previous stages, patience, understanding, and empathy for the person’s individual struggle with loss and change will help to support their personal Grief process.

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