My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief


According to the Kübler-Ross model outlining the stages of grief, there are 5 distinctive psychological phases humans use to cope with a loss. They are as follows:

1. denial

2. anger

3. bargaining

4. depression

5. acceptance

I will outline these as they relate to how we have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic as a society. I do believe that this is a fairly accurate representation for most people.

1. Denial

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief

Denial refers to the difficulty comprehending the reality of a loss. As it relates to the pandemic, a fairly abrupt onset arrival of a highly contagious virus rocked society's vision of normality. What began in Wuhan was written off as something that couldn't possibly happen elsewhere. Leading scientific, research and epidemiological agencies such as WHO wrote off the severity of the virus, attempting to assure people that it would be a short-lived experience, and one that was unlikely to spread with ferocity. Memes circulated the internet, making parodies of the Corona brand of beer. People wrote it off as just another "cold", that you'd get it and be fine. While this is true of the vast majority of people, we know it isn't always the case. Airports were still allowing international travel, and by the time it had spread dramatically, it was too late to contain it. At the end of the day, the virus was not deemed serious initially, and we were all in denial.

2. Anger

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief

Anger can manifest in several ways, primarily as a psychological coping mechanism to divert negative energy outwards out of the body. Sometimes it can be verbal (yelling, swearing) or physical (throwing objects, hitting things in frustration); further, it may also be of blaming others. Anger is not always targeted towards one individual or one thing, but perhaps towards a group of individuals or things that we perceive did us wrong. It is also not always sensible to others why we are angry.

As the severity of the pandemic rose, restrictions began to take effect. People were laid off work or advised to work from home if possible, and were told to only go out for essentials such as groceries or doctor appointments. Curfews were another approach used in an attempt to limit spread. Travel to and from hotspots were limited, and the travel industry was hit with vaccine passports. For many, this loss of normality was frustrating, and anger was diverted (rightly or wrongly) towards those deemed responsible. Why did the governments wait so long to shut everything down? If they did all of this sooner, maybe we wouldn't need to be shut down... It was only supposed to last a couple of months, they said.... My business is failing or about to go under, and for what? However individuals dealt with the situation, for many, anger or frustration was a common sentiment.

3. Bargaining

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief

Bargaining as a process is not something that is quantifiable, and may be something that is not directly apparent. Bargaining is a type of mental gymnastic where we try to undo something that can't be undone. The best representation of this phase is when people started to say things like "if everyone just stayed home, we wouldn't be in this situation". While simple in practice, it is impossible for a society to still function with everyone remaining at home for an extended period of time. And for many, simply going outside for a walk was a coping mechanism for them to deal with the pandemic. It is very easy to judge the actions of another individual when it is impossible to understand their specific life circumstances, and in this way we are trying to undo something that can't be undone. Once the pandemic blew up and case counts skyrocketed, I do believe that there was never any chance that it would disappear entirely.

4. Depression

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief

This is perhaps the phase where most people are currently in. Healthcare workers that have been working diligently since day one are beginning to experience burnout like never experienced before. Staffing shortages across all sectors are pushing workers to do more work on a daily basis, that may have once been more evenly distributed across a larger staffing situation. Families that have lost loved ones to the virus (either distantly or recently) may still be grieving their losses. We are starting to see inflation leading to groceries, gasoline and housing costing far more than they used to, leading everyone to wonder when will it all end and how can they make ends meet. Many individuals may be living pay cheque to pay cheque (or even above their means), feeling that they will never get ahead even if they work more hours. Mental health hotlines have been booming. Suicide rates have been rising across the world. It is not the happiest of times, and it is very difficult to understand what the person across from you is feeling. In many cases, this may be the most difficult phase to get out off.

5. Acceptance

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief

Lastly, in acceptance, we have come to terms with the situation and have accepted the outcomes. Some individuals may already be in this phase. In this phase, you have accepted the virus and acknowledged it as a potentially long-term threat, and accept the consequences of living with it. Perhaps you are comfortable or write it off as less major to your life now than when the pandemic began. Maybe you are comfortable not wearing a mask anywhere, and go to large gatherings with friends or family. In this phase, you may believe that restrictions are no longer needed and that masks are no longer needed because this virus is never going away. No matter the outlook, you have accepted everything, and let come what may be.

Thank you for reading, feel free to let me know what phase you are in currently

My Perspective on Why Covid-19 Closely Mirrors the 5 Stages of Grief
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