I read an article recently from the Harvard Business Review that described the Covid-19 pandemic to the different stages of grief. This really resonated with me. Especially the part about anticipatory grief.
Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about focusing on what you can control and how you need to feel your feelings and get out of the judgement about how you feel.
The pandemic is a circumstance that none of us can control.
This is going to be our new normal for a few months….maybe more. Nobody can really say for sure.
Let me give you an empowering nugget. You get to decide how you think about it. In fact, the only thing you can control right now is how you think about it and how to you act.
We have to learn how to move forward and accept our new normal. So, how do you move forward when it feels like nothing is normal anymore?
Acceptance. Based on the stages of grief, acceptance is how we move forward in our new normal.
Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
It’s going to feel messy and imperfect. Sometimes you’ll feel in control and other times you’ll feel like your world is falling apart. Accepting that THAT is ok is part of the new normal. Continuing to resist that you should only feel one certain way is going compound the stress and anxiety that you’re feeling.
So, what does the new normal look like?
Obsessing over every single news headline and opinion piece but also wanting to strike a balance with staying informed based on just the facts.
Bawling your eyes out watching stories from the front lines but also feeling warm and fuzzy when you see how people are coming together to pitch in and help one another.
Protecting your family at all costs, social distancing, and staying indoors while longing for a girls night out away from them at the club with your friends.
Sitting on the couch to zone out with Netflix watching the Tiger King while also feeling guilty about not working on your business and/or job.
Feeling gratitude that you can still work from home but also resentful because you want a break like all the people who are ‘bored’ and complaining on your timeline.
Wanting to run screaming from your house because your kids are driving you effing nuts. While also feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that they are home safe, warm, and fed with you…shielded from the world.
Going for walks by yourself to clear your head in the sunshine and then feeling panic when you see another human being walking towards you.
Feeling empowered that nothing is going to take down your family and your loved ones. Then, feeling the adrenaline shoot through your heart as you panic about all the what ifs as you watch your children sleep.
One day you’ll feel like doing nothing but binge eating cupcakes in front of the TV. The next you’ll realize that emotionally eating your way though this crisis isn’t going to help you feel any better.
ALL of this is normal. ALL of this is just part of your NEW normal. This is our life right now. It’s temporary. It will pass. Things will get better.
But, for now it’s our new normal.
Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.
The faster you stop judging yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings and accept that this is all our new normal the faster the resistance goes away that you’re feeling.
The faster you can stop that feeling in the pit of your stomach that feels like you’re going to unravel.
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