The arrival of a global pandemic has left many people navigating a rollercoaster of emotions. I was reminded recently of the Kübler-Ross grief curve and how relevant it is to these times. There’s no doubt that each of us will be experiencing our own unique view of the world right now, but models like this can help us to make a little more sense of what we are feeling.
The grief curve was devised in the late sixties by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and was featured in her book, ‘On Death and Dying’. It is now more widely used in change management and can also be applied to the many versions of grief we experience in life.
We can experience grief in response to many things: relationship breakdowns, news of terminal illness and big changes – like living through a global pandemic.
Not everyone will experience all stages, and importantly, we don’t tend to move through them in a linear way. These emotions can be cyclical, particularly when things continue to change. I have certainly noticed that I’ve shifted through these feelings more than once and have moved from what feels like acceptance back to other feelings on a number of occasions.
The curve is particularly useful in making sense of your emotions and in understanding, that if you are experiencing any of these emotions, you are not alone.
The Stages of the Grief Curve
You’re in shock because life has changed in an instant. You might think life makes no sense and is too overwhelming. You deny the news and increase your defences. It’s said, that denial helps us to cope by pacing our feelings of grief. Once the denial and shock fades, the healing process begins.
Once denial passes you might become angry. It is common to think “why me?” and “it’s not fair!” Mental health professionals recognise that anger is a necessary stage of grief. It’s important to experience anger. The more you allow yourself to process the anger in a safe way, the more quickly it will dissipate. It’s ok to be angry!
In bereavement, we might think ‘what if I had done this or that’. In pandemic terms, we might find ourselves beginning to make trade-offs. ’A lock down is costly, but it’s a way to get my life back’. When we feel vulnerable and helpless, it is also common to want to take control.’ I can’t change things outside, but I can influence these things’.
Depression is a widely accepted stage of the grieving process. It represents the emptiness we feel when we experience a loss, realise something has gone and reflects our feelings of hopelessness. The world might seem too much and too overwhelming for you to face. At this time, it’s important to take the rest you need and practice self-compassion.
In this stage, your emotions begin to stabilise. You start to come to terms with what is in this moment and you’re ok with it. It’s not great – but it’s something you can live with. It’s a time of adjustment and readjustment. There are some good days, there are bad days, and then there are good days again.
Can you relate to any of these feelings? Perhaps you can identify moving through some of them yourself, or experiencing others around you feeling this way. I find it quite profound to think that during the pandemic, there have been moments when we have been united globally in our feelings.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how things have been for you…