The Five Stages of Grief and COVID19

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I’ve been thinking about the stages of grief today.

At the end of day on Monday, when we opened school for the first time since late January, we had a celebration for teachers with pizza and cake. Kendrick, one of my colleagues, offered a toast where he referenced the five stages of grief as what we had been experiencing.

Denial.
Anger.
Bargaining.
Depression.
Acceptance.

When he said this, I was so exhausted that I just lifted my glass and said “cheers” with the rest of them.

Yes. Right. Whatever.

But today, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I realize now how true Kendrick’s words were. Looking back on the past ten days since we were informed that we would reopen, I have lived each stage of grief, and I’ve lived them hard.

I denied that it would happen.
I was so very very pissed that it would happen.
I wrote our director in the US in an attempt to bargain for it.
I felt extremely depressed when I realized that we would have to do it.
And then, finally, I realized that it had to happen, and I had to be a part of it. I couldn’t NOT be a part of it.

And then, on Monday, I actually felt joy being there, welcoming the students, being a part of the team making it happen.

I felt joy.

Even when my mom died a couple of years ago I didn’t experience these stages in such a fast and obvious way.

And this floors me.

How traumatic has COVID19 been for each and every one of us? Even with all of the upbeat posts about the amazing food we’ve been cooking, with all the optimistic takes on the good things happening in our communities, with all the cheerful expressions of finally slowing down and spending time with family…

The truth is that we’re going to be unpacking what COVID19 has done to us for many, many years. Some of the more unfortunate among us may never really come to terms with how this thing has impacted them.

And this brings me back to the five stages of grief.

Here’s the thing about these stages: they aren’t something to be feared, even though we typically want to avoid grief. They’re natural. They exist to get us to a point where we accept the new normal in which we find ourselves. They are a part of what it means to be human.

And while you may not be opening up a school, you are probably somewhere on the five stages spectrum because of the trauma you and your family and your friends and your community are experiencing.

Understand this. It’s okay.

Working through this, working through the trauma, working through the grief, it’s all a part of what it means to be human.

It’s who we are.

My hope for myself, my hope for my family, my hope for you is that your final stage will not just be acceptance.

But acceptance… with joy.

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